Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chris Tillman Takes a Step

The Orioles went to 2-0 last night as they continued to get amazing performances from all areas. Jeremy Guthrie threw 8 shutouts innings Friday night. Brian Roberts tripling Friday and hitting a three-run homer last night. The great defensive plays by Felix Pie, Matt Wieters and, of course Nick Markakis.

And last night, Chris Tillman, a guy whose spot in the rotation was in jeopardy less than a week ago, stymied the opposition for 6 innings last night.

Chris Tillman really needed to make the most of his opportunities early in the year. Last night, he took a step in the right direction as he threw 6 no-hit innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. How did he do that? Plain and simple, he threw more strikes. At least relatively more.

PitchFX data generated for the great tool on

Tillman stayed in or around the strike zone pretty well last night. He threw 57.4% of his pitches for strikes. He only exceeded that percentage three times all last season when he threw 6 or more innings. Not surprisingly, his line looked very good for two of those games and he got the win.

Tillman's stuff plays in the zone. He froze hitters, got swinging strikes and had the lineup off balance all night. There were only two well-struck balls all night by my count.

Tillman seems to have gained a bit more control by taking a little off his pitches.

Tillman got the best results when he kept his fastball between 88-92 MPH. Sure, he can dial it up an hit 93-94. But the 90 MPH fast ball paired with that curve...well, when he's throwing them for strikes it's a pretty potent combination.

Tillman has not has control issues in AAA. I believe he is still gaining confidence that his stuff is good enough to get major league hitters out and as his confidence grows, he will attack the zone more and get more results like last night.

And yeah, he walked three guys and he needed 101 pitches to get through 6 innings. It was not a wholly masterful performance. But my advocacy for Tillman in the rotation has not been that he is a finished product but that he needs to improve on his game in the majors. And last night, he took a big step. Now he needs to build on it against the Tigers in Baltimore.


Jon Shepherd said...

He needs to not live in the top third of the plate. Fly balls trend to home runs about 10% of the time. Combine that with the walks . . . I think last night was more luck than improvement.

DempseysArmy said...

You're right but keeping the ball in and around the strike zone like he did is improvement. The Rays couldn't lay good wood on his stuff...that wasn't just lucky. But we shall see going forward if he builds on this.