With Baltimore’s 4-1 Thursday win in New York, Chris Tillman improved to 14-2 on the season. His outing vs. the Yankees was Tillman’s fourth successive 7 inning, 1 er outing.

By fWAR (and any other measurement you want) the Most Valuable Oriole (MVO) is Manny Machado. While Machado has fallen back from the current league leaders (he’s currently 8th overall); it’s plausible that Machado could get back into the league MVP discussion with a strong finish.

Clearly Tillman is not as valuable as Machado.

When talking about Tillman’s value to the O’s, some will point to Tillman’s fWAR of 2.0 and note he is also trailing Schoop (2.4), and Davis (2.4). That he is equal with Trumbo. Some will say that the O’s relievers Britton (1.5), and Brach (1.4) are short-changed by fWAR, and that their WPA (1st, and 13th overall respectfully) are indications that they are also more valuable than Tillman.

What I would argue is past ‘value’, and just commonsense to me. Tillman’s ’16 has been as important as any Oriole. A large part of why I would currently name Tillman the Most Invaluable Oriole (MIO) is the incompetence of the rotation (aside from Gausman) around him; but it’s also about what Tillman has provided.

Let’s look at how Tillman’s 2016 compares with 2012-15 Tillman.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

2012: 12GS, 9-3, 2.93 era, 86 ip, 66 hits, 28 er, 12 hr’s, 24 bb’s, 64 k’s
2013: 33GS, 16-7, 3.71 era, 206.1ip, 184 hits, 85 er, 33 hr’s, 68 bb’s, 179 k’s
2014: 34GS, 13-6, 3.34 era, 207.1ip, 189 hits, 77 er, 21 hr’s, 66 bb’s, 150 k’s
2015: 31GS, 11-11, 4.99 era, 173 ip, 176 hits, 96 er, 20 hr’s, 64 bb’s, 120 k’s
2012-15 Total: 110 starts, 49-27, 3.83 era, 672.2 ip, 615 hits, 286 er, 86 hr’s, 222 bb’s, 513 k’s

2016: 21 GS, 14-2, 3.18 era, 120.1 ip, 100 hits, 44 er, 14 hr’s, 46 bb’s, 101 k’s

2012: 34.5%
2013: 38.6%
2014: 40.6%
2015: 43.5%
2016: 40.2%

OPS Against:
2012: .639 OPS Against
2013: .730 OPS Against
2014: .671 OPS Against
2015: .763 OPS Against
2016: .690 OPS Against

2012: 19%
2013: 21.2%
2014: 17.2%
2015: 16.2%
2016: 20.9%

2012: 6.9%
2013: 8.1%
2014: 7.6%
2015: 8.6%
2016: 9.3%

2012: 4.34
2013: 3.88
2014: 4.20
2015: 4.58
2016: 4.44

Pitch F/X Pitch Type:  Cutter %
2012: 13.1%
2013: 12.4%
2014: 10%
2015: 3.7%
2016: 14.5%

Pitch F/X Pitch Type: 4seam %
2012: 48.2%
2013: 49.9%
2014: 52.4%
2015: 60.9%
2016: 57.6%

July 2012 – October 2015 Release Speed

Tillman July 1st 2012 to Oct 5th 2015 Release Speed

 2016 Release Speed

Tillman 2016 Release Speed Average

July 2012 – October 2015 Percentage Pitch Type

Tillman July 1st 2012 to Oct 5th 2015 Percentage Pitch Type

2016 Percentage Pitch Type

Tillman 2016 Percentage Pitch Type

 July 2012 – October 2015 Swing Percentage

Tillman July 1st 2012 to Oct 5th Swing Percentage

2016 Swing Percentage

Tillman 2016 Swing Percentage


So what jumps out to you?

The HR/9 percentage has dropped from 1.04 last year to 0.99 this year.
His LOB percentage is significantly higher this year at 81.2%, vs. 68.2% last year.

His strikeouts are up, but so are his walks.

I think what standouts the most to me as compared to last year is the increased usage of the cutter.

Beyond that, it’s the increased swings and misses he has got this year. According to FanGraphs, his Swinging Strike % in ’16 is 9.1 (was 7.1 last year, 7.5 for his career). He’s missing more bats, and thus the K’s are up.

Less balls in play, numbers better overall.

It’s fairly common for O’s fans to say Tillman’s stuff is underwhelming, but he has a large assortment of offerings and looks. Many days he won’t have something working, but he has the sense and ability to find what does.

That’s pitching.

Also, while Tillman has looked a bit stronger on the radar gun (especially when needed) this year that’s a little besides the point to me with the 6’5 RHP.  Tillman’s release point is closer to the plate than many, so his perceived velocity is higher than what the gun says.

Should the O’s be thinking extension? Tillman turned 28 in April. He’s making $6.2M this year, and is a Free Agent after next year (arbitration eligible again for ’17).

I’d be in favor of a 4 year deal, inclusive of ’17. My guess is that the 5 year $80M deal Wei-Yin Chen signed with Miami (not including the option year) is probably more realistic.

If he’s not extended, and he’s effective again next year; he’s going to be in-line for significant money as a Free Agent from someone. Given the lack of starting pitching across the game, and currently on full display with the O’s; I’m willing to roll the dice on Tillman over the next 4-5 years myself.

Questions for another day I guess.

Back to today, and 2016.

In 2016 it’s silly to simply judge a pitcher by wins and losses, or to inflate how much wins matter. That said, it’s easy to enjoy Tillman’s 14-2 record.

Tillman is currently on-pace for 13 (+/-) more starts, with 8 of those starts likely to come against the AL East (2 starts each vs. Toronto, NY, Tampa Bay, and Boston).

Will Tillman become Baltimore’s first 20 game winner since Mike Boddicker in 1984? Not the most important thing, but something to watch.

Chris Stoner
Chris Stoner


Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.