Cincinnati Reds: What to expect from Tanner Roark

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31: Tanner Roark #57 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on August 31, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31: Tanner Roark #57 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on August 31, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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This off season the Cincinnati Reds front office has stressed the need to improve their pitching staff.  But what exactly are the Reds getting in former Washington Nationals starter Tanner Roark?

What does new Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tanner Roark bring to the table? In a word: dependability.  Over the past three seasons the right-hander has made at least 30 starts and pitched a minimum of 180 innings.  Considering the fact that only Luis Castillo started as many contests last year for the Reds and no Cincinnati hurler threw as many innings, Roark is the anchor this club needs.

The 32-year-old Illinois native will essentially be filling the role Matt Harvey occupied during the 2018 season.  Throughout his six seasons in the Nation’s Capitol Roark has compiled a 64-54 career record, while sporting a more than respectable 115 ERA+.

Interestingly enough, Roark has had seasons where he has been well above average.  As recently as 2016, he established career highs in wins (16), and innings pitched (210), while mustering an excellent 2.83 ERA.  The right hander was rewarded with a 10th place finish in the NL Cy Young voting following the season.

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However, Roark has been unable to duplicate that type of success the past two seasons.  During that span, he has seen an increase in his home run per nine innings rate coupled with a decrease in his ground ball rate.  If a pitcher is going to succeed in Great American Ball Park, those two numbers will give you pause.

Yet, there are still some positive signs to gleam from the past two campaigns.  Tanner Roark has managed to find the strike zone on a more consistent basis.  Last year he walked just 2.5 batters per nine innings compared to the 3.1 rate he displayed in 2016.  The durable righty also improved his strikeout to walk ratio establishing a 2.92 rate in 2018 in contrast to the 2.36 rate during the aforementioned 2016 summer.

Cincinnati Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall placed a low risk bet last week in Las Vegas by acquiring Roark.  For starters, he’s a free agent following next season.

If Roark is able to take the ball every fifth day and spare over working the bullpen he will be well worth the cost of right-handed reliever Tanner Rainey who went to the Nationals in the deal.  If Roark under performs next season the Reds are in no way financially chained to him in the future.

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Although it won’t be the headline grabbing deal of the winter, the Cincinnati Reds made a solid move to strengthen their greatest weakness.  He may not be spectacular, but a starter with the track record of Tanner Roark is a welcomed addition.