Former Orioles SP Chris Tillman On the Comeback Trail

Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles
Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles / Rob Carr/GettyImages

Former Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman is attempting to resume his major league career! It was assumed Tillman was done after injuries and ineffectiveness derailed his MLB tenure in 2018 and a minor league assignment with the Texas Rangers ended fruitlessly, but the O’s old workhorse is giving it one more go.

As the Baltimore Orioles were competing for playoff berths from 2012-2016, Chris Tillman was arguably the Orioles best pitcher and was one of several dependable constants throughout that micro-era. From his first full season in the starting rotation in 2013 through last vestiges of competitive Orioles baseball in 2016, Tillman led O’s pitchers in starts, innings pitched, and fWAR and trailed just Wei-Yin Chen in ERA.

Former Baltimore Orioles SP Chris Tillman Is Gearing Up In Hopes of an MLB Return

Unfortunately, Tillman’s final two seasons were on the same downward trajectory as the entirety of the Orioles franchise and make it hard to imagine the 34 year old resembling a proficient MLB starter again. Injuries to his shoulder sapped his fastball velocity, which didn’t push much past the mid 90’s to begin with, and robbed him of his command. A fastball that once sat comfortably at 91-93 MPH was suddenly down in the 87-90 range, and a BB/9 in the low to mid 3’s was suddenly above 5.

2017 was the last season he pitched in which he threw enough to qualify for StatCast leaderboards, and the results were bowling shoe ugly. Shoutout to Jack’s Mannequin, because that’s a lot of dark blue. Tillman finished in the *bottom percentile* in five categories: average exit velocity, HardHit%, xwOBA, expected batting average against, and expected slugging. Combine this with bottom 10% performances in categories like chase rate and strikeout percentage and you have arguably the least effective starting pitcher in the entire league that year.

It will be an uphill battle for Chris Tillman to return to the big leagues after his final stanza with the Orioles and subsequent minor league assignments ended so inelegantly, but it’s fantastic to see that Tillman feels healthy and confident enough to attempt a comeback. May all the good luck and positive vibes be with him!

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