Chris Tillman saw his LOB% jump to a career-high 80.5% in 2013. In fact that mark was the sixth best among starters last season. It’s no coincidence that the O’s starter pitched to a 3.71 ERA (113 ERA+) over 206.1 innings pitched.
Leaving more guys on base = less runners crossing home. Duh.
But what does it mean? Beyond The Box Score’s Alex Skillin featured Tillman’s LOB% in a recent post about 2013’s best starters at stranding runners.
The Orioles right-hander saw his LOB% rise to 80.5% last year after a more normal 71.4% in 2012, something that should immediately spark off alarm bells. Significant increases like that are almost certain to correct themselves over a larger sample, and there is little in Tillman’s track record that suggests he can replicate his 2013 performance. The 25-year-old has just one pitch (his curveball) that yielded above-average results last season, and his 21.2% strikeout rate was just slightly better than league average. Tillman’s elevated LOB% was a big reason why he outperformed his FIP last year, and I would bet that is 3.71 ERA is due to rise this season.
It’s hard to disagree with Skillin’s assessment of Tillman’s LOB%. That dramatic jump is likely that reason that many projections see Tillman’s ERA and FIP increasing in 2014. No, it’s not because they hate the Orioles. Steamer, Oliver, ZiPS and PECOTA all project Tillman’s BABIP allowed to rise from 2013 (.269) as well.
If you examine his H/9, HR/9 and BB/9 you’ll noticed that the numbers were very close between 2012 and 2013.
Tillman allowed over one hit and half a walk per nine more in 2013 than he did in the 86 innings he pitched in the big leagues in 2012. The only positive takeaway is that he struck out nearly one more batter per nine.
Last season he cranked up the K/BB in high leverage situations (3.60) despite allowing a ridonkulous .353 BABIP.
I guess this is a longer way of saying that we should expect to see some regression from Tillman in 2014, assuming that he continues to allow roughly the same hits, walks and strikeouts per nine. The only other notable glimmer of hope I could find is Tilly’s 0.97 GB/FB ratio, which happens to be 0.19 higher than the 0.78 GB/FB he posted in 2012. With the strong Orioles infield behind him, maybe another 80+% LOB% is attainable after all.