Friday, May 6, 2011

Chris Tillman is Getting A Bad Rap

"Where do I need to put that horseshoe again?"
All across the media, everyone is talking about what happened to Chris Tillman yesterday. Evidently, he was thrashed, rocked and hammered by the Kansas City lineup yesterday.

But while Tillman's boxscore was plenty ugly, I wonder if the authors of those headlines actually watched the game.

I did. Twice. And while Tillman was not as sharp as he could have been, most of the runs he gave up were due to poor defense and bad luck.

The first three hits Tillman gave up were groundballs that weren't even that well hit. At least two of those balls should have been outs and probably all three. Then there was a misplayed popup but Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino.

The middle infield defense was not good. After giving Andino kudos for his renewed focus in the field, he looked absolutely terrible yesterday.

Anyway, my point is, Tillman pitched well enough to get 6 or 7 outs in the that first inning. There was only one well struck ball in the first.

In the second, Alcides Escobar hit a solid double to left. But he was driven in by Chris Getz who hit a fluky flare down the leftfield line that spun away into foul territory. By my count, there were only two well struck balls hit in the first three innings. Those 5 runs should have been just 1. Or maybe none at all. That deep hole was dug by the entire team, not just Tillman.

Tillman did get hit pretty bad in the 4th while walking the leadoff man, but he was at 79 pitches when he left and should have been into the 5th by then. It was not a stellar outing for Tillman but it really wasn't a bad one. He struck out 3, only walked 1, got a couple popouts and got the opposing batter to hit grounders 47% of the time. But the team has to catch the ball.

Fortunately, Buck Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor seem to understand that.

Sure, Tillman needs to develop the toughness to pitch through innings where your defense (and luck) lets you down. He definitely got rattled (the balk showed that) and he needs to learn from the situation and improve his mental approach.

Meanwhile, there is already talk of a possible replacement for him in the rotation. Tillman does have a 7.16 ERA but according to FanGraphs.com, Tillman has a 3.50 FIP (the best on the team) and a 4.42 xFIP which is pretty respectable.

It doesn't show in the boxscore but Tillman is making improvements. Now the defense needs to help him out.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You watched the game twice... I am so sorry.

Who would you axe from the rotation when Matusz comes to play?

You could send Britton down for 11 days but that would not be popular. Arrieta is actually quite good. Gutrhie is clearly not an option. Does that mean Bergesen gets sent down?

I really like watching Bergesen pitch. He has a worse (but not terrible) FIP than Tillman but his xFIP is slightly better. My irrational fondness for Bergesen comes from Wieter's debut game where he goes 8 shutout innings without walking anyone. It's not like Bergesen has anything to learn from AAA either.

Ross said...

Wow. I had no idea Tillman's FIP was that good. Thanks for pointing this out. I guess that is what 2 HRs in 28 IPs will do for you. Still the 4.4 xFIP seems closer to his true talent level don't you think? I mean the guy has a 4.3 swinging strike percentage; that is really far below average (8.0%). I don't think Tillman needs to go but I think we have to adjust his ceiling to a middle of the rotation guy.

Heath said...

Anon - I would put Bergesen or Tillman in the bullpen for long relief. I don't care where Tillman learns to face MLB pitching, as long as he keeps facing it somehow.

Ross - I agree with your assessment that his xFIP is probably closer to what he really is so far but that's a nice step forward from last season. And yes, he's probably more of a 3 starter...but that's just fine with me at this point.