Chris Tillman - Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher

Chris Tillman‘s performance in 2014 paved the way for the Baltimore Orioles’ run to the American League Championship Series. The righty threw a team leading 207.1 innings pitched, posted a 3.34 ERA while holding opponents to a .238 batting average.

So far, 2015 hasn’t been the same.

Tillman was tagged with his seventh loss of the season on Sunday after the Rays scored six runs (five earned) off him in just 4.2 innings pitched. It was the fourth time this season that Tillman failed to pitch five full innings and the sixth time he failed to reach six.

Some of the advanced stats indicate that Tillman has been a bit unlucky this season — though not a ton. Yesterday the Rays posted a .571 batting average on balls in play against him, on the season opponents have recorded a .329 BABIP on Tillman.

His FIP is also a tad lower than his ERA (4.93, 5.94), which indicates that the O’s defense hasn’t done him any favors this season.

The thing I keep asking myself though, is how Tillman would look this season if the Orioles had brought back his personal catcher, Nick Hundley. 116.2 of Tillman’s innings last season were thrown when Hundley was behind the plate and he had far more success with him than he did with Caleb Joseph, Matt Wieters or Steve Clevenger.

Check out the numbers:

The Birds let Hundley walk and he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in January. This season, Tillman just hasn’t been the same. How much of that has to do with the loss of Hundley?

A week after signing Jon Lester to a six-year, $135 million contract, the Cubs went out and added David Ross. Why? Because together the two had become a dynamic duo in Boston. Sure, Lester had seen success with Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but Ross was his personal catcher and he put together some of the best numbers of his career with Ross behind the plate.

Is the same true of Tillman and Hundley? It’s certainly reasonable to wonder.

Perhaps the counter argument to this point would be Tillman’s statistics in 2013. The O’s starter pitched 206.1 innings, posted a 3.71 ERA, 1.221 WHIP and 2.63 K/BB. He threw primarily to Matt Wieters that season (174 IP) as Hundley wasn’t on the O’s roster.

Maybe the 2014/2013 Chris Tillman will return when Wieters comes back to Baltimore.

Image Credit: Keith Allison