Will the real ace of Baltimore please stand up?


Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

On February 8th, 2008, Chris Tillman came to the Baltimore Orioles in a trade that also brought Gold Glover Adam Jones to Charm City. During his first five years with the organization, he played most of the time in the Orioles’ Minor League system where he owned a 3.30 ERA in Double-A Bowie and a 3.61 ERA in Triple-A Norfolk.

On July 21st, 2009, Tillman made his Major League debut with the Orioles. He would proceed to ride the roller coaster that is being called up to the Majors and sent down to the Minors for the next three seasons. It was not until the 2013 season when Tillman would stay up in the Majors with Baltimore permanently.

He has progressed well since coming to the ball club. The question is: With the given starting pitchers the Orioles have, is Tillman the team’s ace?

This is how Tillman matched up against the other five Orioles starting pitchers in 2014?

  • Chris Tillman- 13-6 record in 34 games started; 3.34 ERA; 150 strikeouts and 66 walks; 1.23 WHIP; 1 complete game
  • Bud Norris– 15-8 record in 28 games started; 3.65 ERA; 139 strikeouts and 52 walks; 1.22 WHIP
  • Miguel Gonzalez– 10-9 record in 26 games started; 3.23 ERA; 111 strikeouts and 51 walks; 1.30 WHIP; 1 complete game
  • Wei-Yin Chen– 16-6 record in 31 games started; 3.54 ERA; 136 strikeouts and 35 walks; 1.23 WHIP
  • Kevin Gausman– 7-7 record in 20 games started; 3.57 ERA; 88 strikeouts and 38 walks; 1.31 WHIP ;1 complete game
  • Ubaldo Jimenez– 6-9 record in 22 games started; 4.81 ERA; 116 strikeouts and 77 walks; 1.52 WHIP

As you can see, during the 2014 regular season, Tillman was third in wins, second in ERA, first in strikeouts, and tied for second in WHIP. Not very convincing numbers of an ace. Also, an ace is someone you can rely on to give you quality starts in the Postseason.

However, in his two career Postseason starts, Tillman had a 6.75 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. Despite his win against the Tigers, Tillman never went farther than five complete innings into a game (5.0 innings vs the Tigers in the ALDS; 4.1 innings vs. the Royals in the ALCS).

These numbers are not dominating like you see in other team’s aces like a Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants.

Right now I don’t think the Orioles do have a definitive “No. 1” pitcher. I think they have a good group of 2’s and 3’s. However, I think Kevin Gausman displays all the makings of a true ace. When Gausman is on the mound, especially in the playoffs, he displays confidence and and power.

He throws a 98 mph fastball with ease and batters have had no answer for it. In the 2014 Postseason, Gausman single handedly saved Game 2 of the ALDS for the Orioles. In the fourth inning, Gausman came in with the score 5-2 Detroit in the fourth inning with two outs and  a man on first. He was given the difficult task of not allowing another run to give Baltimore a fighting chance for coming back  in the game.

Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

He took on this challenge and pitched 3 2/3 innings with five strikeouts. He only allowed three hits and one run while on the mound as the Orioles were able to scratch and claw their way back to winning and took Game 2 of the series.

In the ALCS, he appeared in two games against the Royals and yet again he performed at a high level. Although the Orioles did not win one game of the series, Gausman pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings and only allowed one hit.

If this is any sign of the type of pitching performances Gausman has in him for the upcoming season in Orioles baseball, then Baltimore may have found their ace in the hole.