It’s hard to imagine that Chris Tillman will only be 21 when the season starts in April. It’s even harder to imagine that the O’s got this kid in a package that included Adam Jones and George Sherrill and others. So much talent. So much potential. This is the season that we get to see if this kid is for real.
The previous 2 seasons saw Chris Tillman dominate at the various levels of the farm system. Whether it was a AA Bowie or AAA Norfolk, Tillman was striking out a ton of hitters. While his strike out numbers steadied at 9-10 per 9 innings, his control seemed to strengthen and his walk numbers dwindled over that time period. His numbers were so phenomenal that when Rich Hill went on the disabled list in late July, it was a no-brainer to have Tillman be called up to the big hill.
One thing was for sure, the major leagues are definitely not the minor leagues and vice versa. Tillman quickly looked a bit over-matched in his first outing verses the Royals. He quickly turned that around the next week against the Blue jays when he pitched 6.2 innings and only gave up 2 runs. He had a few more gems before it was all said and done including 6 hit, 1 run performance against Tampa Bay near the end of the season. While there was moments of success, he struggled to consistently dominate like he had done at the lower levels.
As Daniel Moroz (Camden Crazies) pointed out in his perspective on Tillman
It was the home runs – the thing I had been worried about from his minor league numbers – that killed him. You just can’t succeed in the majors giving up 2.08 HR/9, and even adjusting his home runs allowed per flyball down from 15.2% to a more normal rate, he still has a 5.40 expected FIP according to The Hardball Times. Tillman will need to either get more strike-outs or allow fewer flyballs to stay in the majors – and he’ll need to do both to become an effective pitcher.
So what to expect this year? Well, I am projecting Chris to be the 5th starter. This should allow him plenty of attempts to get his bearings year. I am assuming that the team’s offense will improve therefore we should see better win totals out of him. What I am hoping for is an improvement in his overall ERA. Last season, he finished with a 5.40 . This season, I am hoping Rick Kranitz can work his magic and help him lower that ERA at least a point. I am also hoping that we can see him increase those strikeout numbers. Whether that is finding better location with his pitches or developing some movement on his fastball, some adjustments will need to be made.
There is little doubt in my mind that this kid will be great in the upcoming year. Right now, I am just hoping that next year he will be good.