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The Season That Was: Tanner Roark

MLB: Game One-Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Roark was a free agent signing back in December of last year. He got a two-year, $24 million contract. The Blue Jays picked him up because he had made 30 starts in each of the previous four seasons, and after a 2019 season where we used a bunch of starters, having someone able to take the ball every fifth day seemed like a good idea.

He was always around league average for ERA, ERA+ of 110 in his career. The last four seasons, he had a ERA of 3.99 and an average of 184 innings. It seemed like a safe signing. He was a guy who wasn’t going to compete for the Cy Young, but someone who could be a reliable innings eater in the middle of the rotation.

It didn’t happen:

Standard Pitching
2 3 6.80 11 11 47.2 60 39 36 14 23 41 2 2 220 65 6.86
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2020.

Both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs has him at a -0.4 WAR.

His BABIP was .329, much the same as his .322 of last year. 70.3% of his base runners were stranded, much worse than his 78.1% of last year.

Tanner’s FIP was 6.86 and xFIP was 5.84.

His line drive rate was 19.0% (down from 27.1 last year), ground ball didn’t change much (35.9%, from 36.2) and fly ball up a lot 45.1% (up from 36.6). 20.3% of his fly balls left the park (up from 15.5%).

Roark’s strikeout rate was 18.6% (down from 21.9) and walk rate was 10.5% (up a lot from 7.1).

Soft contact down a little (14.3%, from 15.2) and hard contact was up a little (39.0% from 36.9). That hard contact rate would be 8th highest in the AL among pitchers with 40 or more innings.

Right-handed batters (.383/.432/.779) hit him much much better than left-handed batters (.218/.333/.414). That’s a huge reverse split. Career he has pretty normal splits.

At home Tanner had a 7.17 ERA. On the road, 6.49. Batters hit .302/.390/.390 at home (Buffalo) and .315/.383/.648 on the road.

Tanner by month:

  • July: 1-0, 1.80 ERA in 1 start, 5 innings.
  • August: 1-1, 6.14 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .337/.438/.652 in 105 PA.
  • September: 0-2, 8.71 in 5 starts. Batters hit .310/.371/.655 in 97 PA.

Amazingly we were 6-5 in his starts.

His best start of the season, by Game Score, was a 62 on July 28th. Against the Nationals he went 5 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 earned, 0 walks and 5 strikeouts.

His worst start? A 28 Game Score. September 16 in New York against the Yankees. He went 4 innings, allowed 6 hits, 6 earned, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts and 4 home runs. He also had a 29 Game Score, also against the Yankees, in Buffalo September 22.

His season high in pitches was 96, August 24 against the Rays. Lowest pitch count was 68, August 7, in Boston.

He averaged 4.3 innings per start.

Roark wasn’t hitting the number with the fastball that he did last year. He averaged 90.7 mph on the fastball this year, 92.1 last year. I don’t know if that was what caused his problems or not.

Maybe the shortened time to get ready for the season caused the drop in speed.He had moments of being pissed off about being pulled after twice through the order. I can understand that. I had moments of being pissed off by the Jays taking out pitchers early too. I think next season will be different. With 162 games and a 26-man roster, starters will have to go deeper into games. Right? They can’t possibly be thinking starters will only go 4 innings in a full season?

He almost has to be better next year. The problem is the distance between where he was this year, and ‘good’ is long. He could be better next year and still not good enough to be given the ball every fifth day. The team isn’t likely to be willing to eat a $12 million contract, so he will get every chance to show he can be better.

It was such a weird season that I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.


For his 2020 season, I would grade Tanner Roark a

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