Baltimore Orioles: Off speech pitches the key to strong fastballs


We saw the Chris Tillman of 2012-2014 in the Baltimore Orioles’ win last night in Detroit. A one-hit shutout over eight innings might be the best game of his professional career. That’s certainly up to the beholder, however needless to say it’s in the discussion.

Tillman became a really good pitcher starting in the second half of 2012, when everything seemed to just click. But in reality it’s not quite that easy – or at least as easy as some people want to make it out to be. After all if it were really that simple, he along with every other pitcher would pitch well all the time – right? So what changed for Tillman, as it often does for others?

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  • I recall noticing in that second half of 2012 that Tillman was locating his off speed pitches much better in the zone. And this is usually the case with your quality power pitchers in that they start being able to throw change ups and breaking balls, which really fools hitters. In last night’s game we also saw this in the beginning from Detroit’s David Price, who put several Orioles out with sweeping curve balls low and away.

    If you look back on several poor starts by other Oriole starters this year, you’ll

    Courtesy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    notice that opposing teams literally forced the pitcher to utilize their fastball. And by that I mean on almost every pitch. That’s how you neutralize a pitcher who’s got a great fastball; the only chance he has is to strike the hitter out everytime given the fact that the hitter already knows what’s coming.

    But if a pitcher is able to mix in a change up or curve ball like Tillman was doing last night, he’s really going to find himself in business. The Detroit hitters had no idea what was coming each time. And that’s how you fool hitters – if you get them guessing on what’s coming next, you’ve just turned the tables.

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    This is not to say that Tillman or any other pitcher is unhittable. However the point is that if you as a pitcher have the ability to keep hitters on their toes, you’re going to have a much better chance of putting your team in a position to win. When hitters are allowed to force pitchers to throw their fastball and only their fastball, they don’t have to be on their toes.

    So the point is to take it easy in a sense. Heat doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be thrown everytime. If you as a pitcher are able to “take it down a notch” in a sense, your fastball will come off as having much more zip.

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