Chris Tillman, RHP
Tillman has posted a nightmarish 7.67 ERA since the start of 2017, but you wouldn’t have believed it watching his last start against the Detroit Tigers. The Anaheim native pitched like his old self, recording five strikeouts and surrendering just one hit over seven scoreless innings.
The reasons behind the improvement were clear: location, deception and guile. With his average fastball clocking in at under 90 mph, Tillman doesn’t induce a lot of swings and misses, but he got the Tigers to whiff at 10.2% of his pitches, up from 4.8% against the Indians in his previous outing.
Take a look at some of the highlights from his sterling start:
Now comes the business of figuring out whether the strong performance was a happy outlier or a legitimate step toward regaining his old form. Tillman has had to compensate for his lost velocity, but with a bit of creativity, soft tossers can still survive in today’s league. Per Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun:
"“All of [the secondary stuff] was [working],” Tillman said. “All three of my off-speed pitches were there for me when I needed them. With the fastball the way it is right now, you kind of have to mix and match and Caleb [Joseph] and I sat down before the game and we put together a pretty good game plan and executed.”"
Ultimately, we won’t know what to make of Tillman’s last outing until we have more context, and that includes his scheduled Thursday start against the Angels. For all you historians out there, Tillman has an 0.64 ERA in two career starts at Angels Stadium — make what you will of the tiny sample size.