Strasburg? Gonzalez? Zimmermann? Fister? Nope, the Nationals’ leader in wins is … Tanner Roark

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For all the big-money, big-name starters in the Nationals’ rotation–Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister–the team leader in both wins and ERA is a little-known 27-year-old sophomore named Tanner Roark.

Roark was drafted in the 25th round by the Rangers in 2008 and came to the Nationals in the mid-2010 trade for Cristian Guzman. He never cracked anyone’s top-100 prospect list and didn’t even debut in the majors until age 26 last season after posting an underwhelming 4.04 ERA in the minors.

And then he went 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA as a rookie and has followed it up by winning a team-high nine games with a 2.91 ERA in 19 starts this season.

Roark doesn’t have overpowering raw stuff with a fastball that averages 91 miles per hour and he’s managed just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but among the 149 pitchers with at least 150 innings since the beginning of last season he ranks 19th in walk rate at 1.9 per nine innings and fifth in home run rate at 0.46 per nine innings. Throwing strikes, keeping the ball in the ballpark, and letting the defense do its job can definitely be a recipe for success.

Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com has a good article about how Roark went from non-prospect to standout starter, with lots of quotes from his Nationals teammates. It’s a helluva story.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).