A Bright Spot in the Orioles Rotation: The Emergence of Chris Tillman


Chris Tillman  Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With 25 games left in the 2013 MLB season, the Baltimore Orioles find themselves 3 games back from the second wild-card spot. August was a roller coaster of a month for the O’s, from dominating the Padres and taking two games in San Fransisco, to getting swept by the Diamondbacks and losing two games in an important home-series against the Rays.They will need to improve off their August campaign in which they went 12-14 (.461 winning percentage) if they hope to grab one of the wild-card spots in the American League. The Orioles ability to score with runners in scoring position and the ability of the bullpen to preserve a lead are the main questions coming into this all important last month of regular-season baseball. Their success will be an integral part of the Orioles push for the playoffs but there has been one player in particular that has been reliable not only in the month of August, but the whole 2013 season. Chris Tillman has established himself as the Orioles go-to starting pitcher and has become the safest bet for a quality start in a rotation that has experienced a bumpy road heading into September baseball.

In the second round of the 2006 MLB Draft, Chris Tillman was drafted at the age of 17 by the Seattle Mariners. It wasn’t until February of 2009 that Tillman joined the Orioles in the trade that sent Tillman, along with Adam Jones, George Sherill, Kam Mickolio, and Tony Butler to Baltimore for starting pitcher Erik Bedard. Since his arrival in 2009, Tillman has recorded a record of 31-22 in the major league which is respectable winning percentage for a starting pitcher, but if we had looked at his record before this year it would be a different story. Before bursting onto the scene this year, Tillman had a 16-18 record in his four seasons with the Orioles. Tillman has since made major improvements in his game and this season,  it has showed. This season,  Tillman holds a 15-4 record with career highs in strikeouts (141), WAR (3.5), and innings pitched (167.0). If we take a closer look at Tillman’s statistics on the mound, we find that Tillman is a consistent and reliable threat that has given the Orioles organization a bright spot in their starting rotation that they haven’t had really since Erik Bedard was still in Baltimore or even as far back as Mike Mussina

This year, Chris Tillman became the fastest player in an Orioles jersey to reach 15 wins since Erik Bedard and also made his first career all-star game. Tillman could have gotten there even faster if it hadn’t taken him 5 starts to get that elusive 15th win, one should also note that in four of those five starts, he only gave up a maximum of 2 earned runs in each start. Even in his win-drought, Tillman turned in quality start after quality start. Tillman has accumulated an 3.71 ERA with 144 strikeouts this year and the solid play doesn’t stop here. Batters are only hitting .239 when facing Tillman and has recorded the highest WPA (Wins Probability Added) rating of his career with 2.13.  Tillman also currently ranks 3rd in the MLB in LOB%(Percentage of Runners Left on Base) with 82.3% of runners left on base, behind only Yu Darvish and Julio Teheran. This means that when batters eventually reach base against Tillman, it is very unlikely that Tillman is going to let them cross the plate and score. If you combine this percentage with the best defensive team in the MLB, you get a tough outing for any team playing against Tillman and the Orioles.

The Orioles should keep hold of Tillman as long as they can, in a shaky and many times confusing pitching rotation, the Orioles need some form of stability and Tillman provides that. With an excellent ratio of LOB% and numerous quality starts, Tillman has grabbed hold of the “ace” position in this rotation and will continue to impress Buck Showalter and the rest of the Orioles organization as the Chase for October continues.