Welcome back to the Tap Room. There’s been some late nights around here recently with 10:05 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. starts.
That’s OK, we’ll pour for you at night and then give you something to chew on in the morning. Like a question about the Orioles’ top starting pitcher.
Earlier this year, I talked to a couple scouts about the Orioles, and both mentioned concerns about the team rotation. And one referred to right-hander Chris Tillman, the club’s No. 1 pitcher as “frustrating.” He said he’s been scouting Tillman for years and his reports are all over the place, because he often sees a different pitcher each time out.
Tillman, who I’ve known for seven years now and have as much respect for him as anyone in the clubhouse, called me on that piece, giving me a little grief for that “frustrating” line.
The truth is there is probably no one more frustrated by Tillman’s inconsistency in the past than Tillman, who is a fierce competitor and a harsh critic of himself. He knows what he is capable of, so when he can’t do it every start, it pains him, too.
I bring this up because Tillman is on a heck of a run. He allowed just two runs on three hits (one homer) and three walks in a seven-inning no decision against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night. His ERA sits at 2.61 in 10 starts, among the Top 10 in the AL.
He has now made seven straight quality starts, not allowing more than two earned runs in six of those seven outings. He is clearly the club’s most dependable starter right now, which is a huge relief to the Orioles after his 2015 season, in which he posted a 4.99 ERA.
The two seasons before that, Tillman was emerging as a top-of-the rotation starter, if not an ace, with an All Star nod in 2013 and a tremendous 3.34 ERA in 34 starts in 2014. But then he took a big step backward last year, bringing the “frustrating” cries again.
I’ve said it before and will continue to do so. I think the left ankle injury that hampered Tillman for a part of the season was a bigger deal than anyone knew. He obviously felt like his team needed him down the stretch and he could pitch through it, but he didn’t have the same kind of finish on and control of his pitches in 2015. So I think this is the real Chris Tillman, though, of course, time will tell.
I guess what I’m asking here is if you think last year was an aberration – and that what we are seeing now is what you are going to get from Tillman, for the most part, in 2016. Given how well the Orioles are doing and the fact that Tillman is currently 6-1 with a sub-3.00 ERA, you have to imagine he’ll go to his second All Star game if he keeps chugging along this way.
So do you think he’ll keep it up? Is this the Chris Tillman you expect now? Or are you waiting for that inconsistent streak to rise again and for the “frustration” level to creep back up?
Tap-In Question: What’s your take on Chris Tillman in 2016?