Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams Has Difficult Decision for 5th Starter

By Brian Skinnell
Brad Barr - USA Today Sports
Brad Barr – USA Today Sports

On Monday, Taylor Jordan threw a significant counter-punch to Tanner Roark on the mound. The pair are locked in a close competition for the Washington Nationals‘ fifth pitcher spot. Now that the two are done for the spring, Matt Williams has a very tough decision to make.

Against the Miami Marlins in his final Spring Training start, Jordan threw 5.2 innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two. He got off to a good start, throwing five straight scoreless innings. Jordan saved his best for last this spring and certainly gave Williams something to think about.

Just a day prior to Jordan’s start, Roark made a very loud statement of his own. Roark went 5.2 innings, giving up one run on just two hits while striking out five. As you can see, both of their last Spring Training starts were very similar. Even their overall stats are too similar to really differentiate between the two.

In 20.2 total innings, Jordan allowed 9 ER, two walks and struck out 10. Roark pitched 13.2 innings, gave up 5 ER, three walks and struck out 11. Roark finishes spring with a 3.29 ERA, while Jordan finishes the spring with a 3.92 ERA. If you go based on stats, it’s nearly impossible to decide who to go with. So, let’s look at past performances in a starting role.

If Williams looks back to the 2013 season, it’s clear that Roark now holds the advantage. Following Jordan being shutdown on an innings limit, Roark took over as the starter in place of Ross Detwiler. In five starts in the month of September, he went 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA while striking out 21. In nine starts prior, Jordan went 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA and 29 strikeouts. As you can see, statistically Roark holds the advantage.

Regardless of how Williams decides, it’s likely Roark will be on the big-league club come Opening Day. If Jordan takes the fifth spot, Roark could very well end up in the bullpen, a role he did well in last year. However, Jordan would likely go back to the minors if Roark takes the job. Roark is a much more versatile pitcher and that could be another factor that gives him an advantage.

Is there a right or wrong pick here? Absolutely not. Either way Williams goes, he’s going with a good pitcher. This is a great problem for the Nationals to have. They have two very solid pitchers battling for the final spot in a great rotation. Both pitchers, while different in terms of style, are nearly equally productive.

Ultimately, I think that Roark gets the nod come Opening Day. His past performances in a starting role and his solid body of work in Spring Training will win him the job. However, it certainly wasn’t an easy choice for me, and you can bet it will be an ever harder decision for Williams.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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