Nationals Stock Watch: Is Roark the rotation's best pitcher right now?

Nationals Stock Watch: Is Roark the rotation's best pitcher right now?
June 26, 2014, 1:00 pm
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(Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

We take a look at the Nationals' past week, at a glance:

Record: 4-3
Team slash: .211/.272/.219
Team ERA: 2.85
Runs per game: 2.85

STOCK UP 

Tanner Roark, SP: 1-0/5.1 IP/1.69 ERA

Roark showed great moxie during his start in the weekend series against the Braves, limiting them to just one earned run in 5.1 innings and earned the win. He wasn't dominating, but in what has become classic Roark fashion, he was able to consistently get himself out of jam after jam. His style of pitching won't ever be confused with the likes of Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann; he just doesn't have that kind of overpowering stuff. But the 27-year-old righty is a battler. He fought his way onto the roster late last season and he hasn't slowed down one bit in 2014. It's stunning that his seven wins on the year leads the team and that his 2.79 ERA is better than both Strasburg and Zimmermann's. Who'd have thought at the beginning of the season that between Roark and Doug Fister, the two best starters would be the supposed "back of the rotation" guys?

Gio Gonzalez, SP: 1-0/6 IP/0.00 ERA

Boy, did Gio need a start like the one he had Monday night in Milwaukee. Gonzalez pitched six shutout innings with five strikeouts against one of the National League's best offenses, helping the Nats earn a 3-0 win. In his second start since coming off the disabled list, he utilized his changeup much more often than he ever had in previous starts, and it flummoxed a lineup known for its aggressive tendencies. It was arguably his best outing of the season (he only had one other start where didn't allow an earned run) and one the Nationals hope is the start of a rebound for the former 21-game winner.

Ross Detwiler, RP: 1 GP/4.0 IP/0.00 ERA

Anytime a bullpen hurls ten shutout innings in a single game, there are plenty of people worthy of a pat on the back. But Detwiler deserves special consideration here. He's been the only reliever that hasn't been able to carve out a niche for himself this year, and has been mostly ineffective whenever Matt Williams handed him the ball. But that wasn't he case during Tuesday night's marathon 16-inning victory, where he pitched four shutout frames while keeping the Nats alive long enough to give them a chance to win. It was an outing where he had to call upon his previous experience as a starter, with Williams stretching Detwiler out as long as he could to preserve the rest of the bullpen. He responded with his most impressive outing of the season, and perhaps one that could earn back the manager's trust in tighter situations moving forward.

Adam LaRoche, 1B: .333 AVG/.455 OBP/.444 SLG

LaRoche continues to rake at a steady pace, as he's had multi-hit efforts in five out of the last eight games. Combine that with the fact that he's one of the most patient hitters in this lineup (he walked a team-high six times over the past week) and you can make the case that he, not Anthony Rendon, is the team's best hitter right now. He currently leads the team in both average and on-base percentage, while also posting respectable power numbers. Sure, Rendon and Ian Desmond may hit the long ball more often, but LaRoche is the consistent presence in the lineup that makes everyone else's job easier.

STOCK DOWN

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 2 GS/0-1/9.28 ERA/1.88 WHIP

A pretty solid week for the Nationals ended in disappointment, as Strasburg turned in what was by far his worst outing of the year. He got shelled by the Brewers Wednesday afternoon, getting chased from the game after allowing seven runs over 4.2 innings, dropping his record to 6-6. We're nearing the halfway point of the season, and we've only seen Strasburg show glimpses of his old self here and there. He has moments where he dominates, but way too often he still regresses to a pitcher that nibbles and can't find his command on a consistent basis. He doesn't rear back and throw heat like he used to, and hitters have timed his fastball and breaking pitches much better than in previous years. Has the league figured him out? Is he not making the proper adjustments? All of the above? Who knows, but right now, he's not the best starter in the rotation -- something everyone associated with the Nats thought he'd be entering the season.

Jerry Blevins, RP: 3.2 IP/7.36 ERA/2.45 WHIP

Even those who are apart of the best bullpen in the majors can be susceptible to a slump here and there. Blevins was that guy this past week, as he was roughed up a few times early in the Atlanta series (though he later pitched better against the Brewers). He allowed the two decisive runs in a disappointing 6-4 loss to the Braves Friday night, a game in which the Nats came back to tie it up in the 9th inning only to falter four innings later. Blevins has allowed runs in three of his last four outings, and has walked five hitters over the last 3.2 innings pitched. That's obviously not a good trend for any reliever, but those type of performances tend to stand out even more when the rest of the bullpen is pitching lights out.