Sarris: Tanner Roark and the importance of strike one

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on June 25, 2014:

Cliff Lee. David Price. Jordan Zimmerman. Tanner Roark. They share consecutive spots on an important leaderboard, but maybe more importantly for Tanner Roark is that he’s even in the same paragraph to begin with. Since he was released by his college team in 2007, a few signature moments have taught him the tools (and grips) to survive (and thrive) in the big leagues.

The first moment was maybe the biggest. That was the moment the Texas Rangers called and said they wanted him in their system. “Yeah I was very surprised — I was grateful,” Roark admitted before a June game with the Giants. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had released him during winter break, and then for six months, the pitcher “hadn’t even seen any competitive time on the mound.”


The pitcher himself doesn’t know exactly what they saw. “It was a tough road to go through, I knew I had the stuff, I had the confidence in myself, but when I was in Indy ball I was getting shelled,” he said. But the Rangers called, and then someone got hurt in High-A, he was promoted, and then he was included in a trade to the Nationals.

Standing on a mound with the Nationals one day, Roark had an epiphany. “I just scratched the four-seamer and starting throwing all two-seamers, and it’s been a blessing,” he said of that moment. No mentor, no advice, no meeting with his team — just one reliever trying to make a name for himself and ditching the four-seamer.

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Originally published: June 26, 2014. Last Updated: June 26, 2014.