Baltimore Orioles: What is Wrong with Chris Tillman?


Jun 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles opening pitcher Chris Tillman (30) pitches against Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

I missed viewing all but the final inning of yesterday’s Baltimore Orioles 13-9 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was truly a game where no lead was safe. This win, along with the improbable victory on Saturday could prove to be critical games as we look back on this season after the O’s win the World Series.

I chose instead on Sunday afternoon to check out the DelMarVa Shorebirds as they played a final game before their South Atlantic League break for the All-Star Game. They lost to the Nationals’ local farm team, the Hagerstown Suns, by a 6-3 score. First baseman Derek Peterson crushed a two-run homer, but much of the rest of the game was a difficult effort for the O’s affiliate. The Shorebirds finished the first half of the season at 33-35.

Possibly the best part of the game was when the 25 or so Miss Maryland contestants – who were in town for the annual state pageant – dropped in at the game for a few innings. You gotta love minor league baseball. At the same time it was “Bark in the Park” day, with people bringing their dogs to the game.

So what is wrong with Chris Tillman, who got knocked out of Sunday’s game after merely 1 and 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits? Ultimately, I don’t know the answer. Presuming there is not a physical issue that is not being revealed, one would presume he will eventually return to the reasonably effective pitcher we have known since the middle of 2012.

One could speculate that one of the problems on Sunday was the long wait between the bottom of the first and the bottom of the second. In the top of the second inning, the Orioles sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven runs. That takes time. I do think it is a fair statement to make of Tillman that he is the most regimented of the O’s starters. He is the guy who needs routines that are predictable – certainly he does between starts, and maybe even between innings.

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So the Orioles sent down Wei-Yin Chen to avoid him pitching against the Blue Jays. Really? He might have done worse than Tillman did on Sunday?  This year, Tillman is now 0-3 against the Jays in four starts, giving up 25 runs in 15 innings for an ERA of 15.00.

Overall for 2015, Chris is 5-7 with a 6.22 ERA. This is not what the Orioles expected of their presumptive top-of-the-rotation starter.

You may recall that Tillman had a rough start in 2014. There were some very bad games, but he corrected things and ended with a strong season – particularly in the second half. Will he turn it around again?

Actually, the hole that he is in right now is larger and a bit later than in 2014. The last time he had such a short outing as yesterday was in a game against Texas on June 5th of last year. It was his 13th start of the season; yesterday was #14 for 2015.

But Tillman came back in his next start and only gave up one run in six innings. It was the first of nine consecutive quality starts, and 18 of 21 for the rest of the season.

Will Tillman do this again this year? My guess is that he will figure it out, though I’ll admit I would have thought such would be done by now. This is another situation where Showalter has a long memory of the track record, and Tillman is going to be given regular chances (provided there is not an unknown physical issue) just as Jimenez was last year. But the Orioles really need him to fix things; they cannot be counted upon to put up 13 runs every time he melts down.

Next: God had to have predestined the O's 5-3 win over the Jays