Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Tillman's command; Sisco's bunt; minor moves; radio musings - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Tillman’s command; Sisco’s bunt; minor moves; radio musings

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon
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We all knew it would be a tough opening assignment for Chris Tillman.

After his disaster of a 2017 season, Tillman’s first outing in 2018 would come against the defending World Champion Houston Astros in their electric home opener Monday at Minute Maid Park.

The results weren’t good for the Orioles, the sagging offense and Tillman in the 6-1 loss.

The 29-year-old right-hander lasted four innings plus one batter, surrendering four runs on four walks and seven hits, including a home run.

Yes, the Astros can mash. So, in one sense, escaping with just four runs allowed while permitting 11 baserunners is probably a victory in itself.

But in the majors, moral victories don’t count in the stat sheet. They certainly don’t for the proud Tillman, either.

What counts is performance.

Tillman had very little command Monday. He threw 84 pitches and only 45 were strikes. He didn’t punch out a batter despite facing 23 of them.

Here’s one legitimate issue: According to ESPN Stats, Tillman was throwing his fastball between 88 and 91 mph, and his changeup between 82 and 84 mph. At times, there was just a 5-mph difference in one batter’s sequence. You’d ideally like to see a 10-mph separation.

Here’s a bigger issue: Tillman threw first-pitch strikes to nine of the 23 batters he faced. Last season, when Tillman had a 7.84 ERA, he threw first-pitch strikes 47.5 percent of the time, worst in the majors among qualifiers and well below the 61 percent league average, according to ESPN.

So, in his first start of 2018, he didn’t throw strikes, didn’t get ahead in counts, didn’t miss bats. Which, as we all know, is what happened more times than not with Tillman in 2017.

Now, as I’ve written about Andrew Cashner and Kevin Gausman, it’s only one start in April. That same distinction should be afforded to Tillman.

He told reporters he felt like his arsenal Monday was so much better than it was in 2017, he just couldn’t command the fastball.

And, again, Monday was against the Astros, who have a ridiculously dangerous lineup from top to bottom. Tillman’s next start isn’t much easier, though – in Yankee Stadium this weekend.

Still, he is going to have to be better to justify his rotation spot. He understands that.

The Orioles were betting on his competitiveness when they re-signed Tillman to a one-year, $3 million deal in February.

It was a calculated risk that he could rebound from 2017. I liked it then.

But, some point soon, the results have to start matching the faith.

Twins’ Sisco complaint is silly

Much was made on social media about a couple of Minnesota Twins, including well-respected second baseman Brian Dozier, complaining about rookie catcher Chance Sisco’s bunt in the ninth inning on Sunday.

Facing a right-side shift, Sisco pushed a bunt to third base and easily made it down the line for his and the club’s second hit of the afternoon. I thought nothing of it at the time except, “Boy, fans are gonna have a field day with this – with a rookie bunting for a single in the shift, but not a veteran like Chris Davis.”

I never thought the Twins would take exception to it, despite being up 7-0 and Jose Berrios attempting to complete a one-hitter.

But they did.

Dozier, among other Twins, said after the game that Sisco went against baseball’s unwritten code and shouldn’t be bunting given the circumstances. He said the Orioles’ veterans should, and would, instruct Sisco about it.

Dozier, of course, was skewered by most baseball people, and clarified his statements Monday, saying the Orioles didn’t hold runner Ryan LaMarre at first base with two outs in the ninth and LaMarre didn’t attempt to steal. The Twins were playing it in that respectful, old-school way, and the Orioles should have done that, too, Dozier reasoned.

I don’t waste too much time on this, because it is silly.

But let me add two things: One, the Twins were shifting in the ninth inning. So, all bets are off in the old-school argument.

Secondly, teaching a young player baseball’s right way should come with the caveat that you should do anything in your power, legally, to help your team win, no matter the score. Sisco did that and got a one-out single. He did it right.

As for the veterans teaching Sisco, Davis came to his young teammate’s defense Monday, telling The Baltimore Sun that Sisco was trying to jumpstart the offense against a tired pitcher and that Davis would have done the exact same thing – bunted on the left side against the shift – if Sisco had gotten out. In fact, Davis told Sisco that plan before Sisco’s at bat, according to the Sun.

So, bottom line: Silly controversy, silly unwritten code.

Thoughts on Monday’s moves

The Orioles made three minor moves on Monday, all worth mentioning, none particularly significant. The main one to keep your eye on is the minor league signing of left-handed hitting outfielder Michael Saunders.

The Orioles and executive vice president Dan Duquette have coveted Saunders multiple times, but never landed him. The club had some conversations this winter with Saunders’ agent, but they decided to sign Colby Rasmus instead. Meanwhile, Saunders signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was released and signed with the Kansas City Royals but didn’t make their Opening Day squad.

Saunders, 31, will begin at Triple-A Norfolk, and may stay there. He had a rough season last year — .202 average in 73 games with Toronto and Philadelphia – and has battled injuries much of his career.

But he’s had some success when healthy (a 2016 All Star), and he loves to hit at Camden Yards. No one active has a higher on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.129) in at least 20 games played there. Saunders has hit .310 at the Yards in his career.

If Rasmus isn’t hitting or if he gets hurt, I could see Saunders in the majors. Or he might spend the rest of the year in Triple- A. It’s one of those no-harm, no-foul Duquette insurance policies.

The other two moves were trades of pitchers that the Orioles designated for assignment Thursday. They sent right-hander Stefan Crichton to the Arizona Diamondbacks for future considerations and Jesus Liranzo to the Los Angeles Dodgers for lefty reliever Luis Ysla, who will head to Double-A Bowie.

Ysla, 25, will be joining his fourth organization after being traded for the third time. He had a 5.28 ERA at Double-A for the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox organizations in 2017, walking 39 and striking out 52 in 58 innings.

The Orioles figured Crichton might be claimed on waivers and it was almost a certainty that the hard-throwing, 23-year-old Liranzo would be. The Orioles loved his arm and makeup, but Liranzo just couldn’t throw strikes consistently.

Now both are in the minors for other organizations, while the Orioles created necessary room on their 40-man roster for players like Rasmus and Pedro Alvarez.

Radio musings with Hoch

If you didn’t catch my radio show Monday streaming on woyk1350.com or live on the York, Pa., station, you can access it below. It includes my thoughts on the first weekend of the Orioles’ season as well as an interview with MLB.com’s New York Yankees reporter, Bryan Hoch.

We talk about the 2018 Yankees, whom the Orioles will face for a four-game series in the Bronx beginning Thursday. We also discuss Hoch’s new book, “The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty.” And, yes, we discussed that subtitle (spoiler alert: Hoch didn’t pick it). It’s worth checking out the show below or download it as a podcast on iTunes.

[ SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCASTS HERE: iTunes / Google Play ]

52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. Kess0990

    April 3, 2018 at 7:13 am

    90 runs over roughly the last 97 innings pitched dating back to last season. That’s an 8.35 ERA. Ideally you would like a ERA of 5.00 or less for a rotation guy. If Tillman doesn’t figure it out soon the Orioles may possibly need to release him all together or DFA tillman. His velocity isn’t there. His command is no where to be found. More importantly, his mental confidence has to be at an all time low.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Yeah. Again one start against the World Champions. Can’t say it is going to be 2017 all over again. But not a good beginning.

  2. Birdman

    April 3, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Big question is how long Buck will stick with Tillman in the rotation. Before Cobb, I thought, okay, give Tillman a couple of months – what’s the harm, since the O’s aren’t really trying to compete this season. But the Cobb signing changes the equation. If they are serious about making a playoff run, how many times can they afford to send Tillman out to the mound for another sure loss?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:07 am

      The real question is who is better? Mike Wright, who has struggled in the past as a MLB starter? Miguel Castro, who has one MLB start? Nestor Cortes, who has none?

      • Bancells Moustache

        April 3, 2018 at 9:48 am

        Watching Tilly these past few weeks Dan-o, they might have better luck putting you or Dubroff out there.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:57 am

      I might be able to mystify them with my 50-mph yakker.

  3. Osfan73

    April 3, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Till man looked sick last night. Everything was up in the zone or wildly outside. No velocity. Even Rick Sutcliffe remarked early on you have to wonder if he’s healthy missing his spots like he was. Tillman is fortunate Houston elected not to challenge the early out at third base that clearly should’ve been called safe….a gift the Os failed to capitalize on.
    Sisco…..did everything right bunting against the shift Sunday. If it’s ok to shift defensively with a 6 run lead in the 9th then it’s ok to beat said shift with a bunt. By the way there are 27 outs in a baseball game and at this level you play hard all 27 of them as Sisco did! Dozier needs to be quiet and just play ball.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:09 am

      The only thing I’d quibble with is that everything is up in the zone. That’s often how Tillman pitches. He’s made a living raising the eye level of hitters. The problem is being all over the zone and not hitting spots.

      • JCO

        April 3, 2018 at 9:42 am

        The problem with that is if Tillman is throwing a sub-90 mph fastball, being up in the zone will make for a lot of balls for outfield set fans and bullpen personnel to chase after. I’m sure they’ve thought of it but I wonder if he needs to change his style.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Well, when pitchers lose velocity they often have to change styles. I would presume the hope is the velocity returns some. It did a little toward last year. Remember, Gausman’s velocity was down too in his first start. It can happen. It just can’t be a trend.

  4. bigdaddydk

    April 3, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Tonight we find out if Wright may be in any way viable as an alternative to Tillman once Cobb is with the team. If Cobb shows up and deals, Bundy keeps the good stuff rolling, and Gausman figures it out, then we have to count on Cashner and either Tillman or Wright. I don’t expect that Cashner’s performance against Minnesota is going to be a typical outing. I’d be surprised if it is. Tillman and Wright are the real wild cards here, and one has to step up or we’re conceding every fifth game that doesn’t involve an opponent’s absolute mess of a starter or a 10-run outburst by our guys.

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 3, 2018 at 8:47 am

    If I’m Mike Wright, I’m watching Chris Tillman struggle and wondering if I have a shot at the 5 hole in the rotation even after Cobb gets on board

    With that unsavory thought in mind, and if were Dan Duquette, I’m pushing the panic button, and taking a hard look at Eddie Gamboa and/or making a phone call to RA Dickey.

    Astros or not, this is not looking good.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:11 am

      Way too early for pushing the panic button. But get the wrist limbered in case. And I’m not sure how a knuckleball plays in Camden Yards in the summer.

      • willmiranda

        April 3, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        I know it wasn’t Camden Yards, but Memorial Stadium was pretty good to a guy named
        Wilhelm, even after they shortened the fences.

    • Dpsmith22

      April 3, 2018 at 11:10 am

      Duquette has had 6 years to find quality depth and has been unable. Not sure he has that magic trick in the bag.

    • Jbigle1

      April 4, 2018 at 2:29 am

      Dickey was only interested in signing close to his home in Tennessee. Tough state to stay close to, but I think Baltimore may be a bit too far.

  6. Quote27

    April 3, 2018 at 9:31 am

    “Necessary room for Alvarez and rasmus “
    Why do you entertain the absurdity of continuing to add worthless garbage to the roster ? Especially at the expense of youth
    I’m sick of seeing the trumbo Alvarez Gentry janish rasmus snider Saunders etc garbage
    This organization has no faith or confidence in its younger players. Why isn’t Santander playing? Why isn’t Cisco, who can hit dh ing at the least What exactly does Buck do ? Shake it up for gods sake

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 10:01 am

      Definitely would be interesting to see Santander play more. As for Sisco, how about we just let him work on his catching first?

      • Dpsmith22

        April 3, 2018 at 11:11 am

        Sisco might be the best pure hitter on the team. I agree with Quote27 that Sisco could DH a bit. Not like we are getting from Alvarez.

        Obviously Santander could DH, but his defense is not up to Buck’s standards or I think he would get some playing time.

        • Osfan73

          April 3, 2018 at 11:50 am

          Is Beckham’s defense up to Buck’s standards?…After not recognizing a potential dp ball hit to him on a qjik one hop last night he just throws to second base instead.

  7. Bancells Moustache

    April 3, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Trying to remind myself there’s 158 more games, but my God this team looks awful. We’re talking 1988 awful. I had yesterday penciled in as a loss even if the Orioles had Bob Feller on the mound, the whole ring ceremony thing and all. I didn’t think the Orioles would look like a junior college team in an exhibition against the World Champs.

    The Sisco thing is beyond idiotic. What a bunch of whiners. At what point has the newly elected commissioner of baseball, Bryan Dozier, decreed that the opposing team should just pack it up and go home? Down three in the 8th? Two in the 9th? Stupid. The only thing I can fathom is that they didn’t realize that Sisco’s double was ruled a hit not an error and they thought he blew a no hitter for Barrios, but no, Dozier knew that full well. It’s not like there isn’t a 50 foot tall device behind the centerfield bleachers that lists how many runs hits and errors each club has. And it’s not like Buxton couldn’t read that same device when he was stealing bases up 5 runs. Stupid. Looks like its time for a few Twins to wear the Rawlings necktie when they meet again in June.

    I like the Saunders signing. Alot. Looks like a great candidate for the Cruz-Trumbo Memorial ‘power hitter whose career was saved by a season at Camden Yards’ trophy. Which allows me to end things on a sophisticated note; ask not for whom the bell tolls Mr. Rasmus, it tolls for thee.

    • JCO

      April 3, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Basically, the couple of Astros whining about this are saying “We can execute strategy up seven but you’re not allowed to execute strategy down seven.” And the “but we didn’t steal” excuse is immediately eliminated by running the shift in that case.

      Plus, I’ve played a lot of baseball in my life, high school-college-adult-old guy league, and the outrage over breaking “the code” is almost always about something the team up by a lot does. Like stealing or hit-and-run when you’re up 11-2 in the eighth. I can’t recall someone complaining about something a team getting blown out does as far as strategy.

      • Raveonjo

        April 3, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        Good point, but it was the Twins whining.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Yes gentlemen, silliness, I say.

  8. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    April 3, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Tillman didn’t have command of his pitches. Also, as noted he is not going to get many swing and misses. Especially when there is little speed difference between his fb and off speed pitches. Plus the Astro are a great hitting team. It will likely be ugly tonight with Wright pitching.

    The Sisco issue is ridiculous. The Twins stole a base in the 6th inning after being up 6-0. Dozier must have spilled coffee on the unwritten rule book for that one. If you’re playing the shift then expect a bunt plain and simple.

  9. jkneps63

    April 3, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Time to start making a legitimate list of other team’s prospects the Orioles can reasonably expect to obtain via trades.

    I don’t think picking up a 31 year old minor league OF is going to be extremely helpful in the long run. We have left hand hitting Presley (32 years old) at Norfolk who posted a 0.354 OBP with Detroit last year (but only 0.306 OBP across all MLB games) AND left hand hitting Brugman (26 years old) also at Norfolk who post a 0.346 OBP with Oakland last year. Saunders’ MLB OBP? 0.305! He should fit right in with the Orioles.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      When you get that list of quality players other teams want to trade, let me know. Heck, let Duquette know.

      • jkneps63

        April 3, 2018 at 7:20 pm

        Cynical much? lol…I actually had cracked Duquette’s Baltimore Orioles email address many years ago, but he disregarded my suggestions. Offer Manny for 3-4 prospects, Schoop for 2-3, etc. It shouldn’t be that hard. Surely someone can turn Gausman into a Cy Young winner…

        Same ole same ole isn’t going to work this season IMO

  10. OriolesSuperFan79

    April 3, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Hey Dan, at what point does the front office “throw in the towel” and begin making significant trades? I realize there’s 158 games left to play, and I still have faith Buck and the team can turn this around. But if that doesn’t happen, can we see significant trades far in advance of the non-waiver deadline?

    • jkneps63

      April 3, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      I’m not Dan but I’d say at the 40 game mark if the club is 10 or more games under 0.500 (15-25 or worse). I’d like to see a shake up in the coaching staff too along with significant trades.

    • OriolesSuperFan79

      April 3, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      I agree, jkneps63, that 40 games is probably the right time if this continues. And a change in the coaching staff is interesting. I’ve never been a fan of Scott Coolbaugh or Roger McDowell, but I’d want Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson to stick around.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      40 games only gets you to Memorial Day-ish. Even if the orioles stink and appear out of it. Many teams will still be deciding who they are. So I wouldn’t imagine legit trades to happen until at least late June early July. And most really happen until late July. Takes two to tango. And a seller wants as many teams involved as possible to create the best deal.

  11. bv22

    April 3, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Did I read that right? Davis told Sisco to bunt against the shift??? Maybe he should heed his own advice. I don’t remember the last time Davis tried to go the other way and beat a shift….

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      Actually you didn’t read it right. He told Sisco that HE was going to bunt into the shift if there were two outs.

  12. garyintheloo

    April 3, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Wen s morning in St. Louis my non-sports radio station was discussing Sisco’s bunt with the same quest this a big deal to anyone as though stealing a base with a seven run lead is not. As for the Os: just win baby!

  13. garyintheloo

    April 3, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    That was supposed to read “When I woke up this morning in St. Louis my non sports radio station was discussing Sisco’s bunt with the same question of what is the big deal?”

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      Yeah. Not a big deal.

  14. Ezrine Tire Award

    April 3, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Not to sound a false alarm but this season could be over fairly early. Except for Bundy we’ve been overmatched in every phase of every game.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Could be. But this is a brutal stretch to start the year. They face four of the AL’s five best teams in two weeks. So that does have to be considered.

  15. Ezrine Tire Award

    April 3, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Outmatched duh…..

  16. MAGICEJS

    April 3, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Dan,
    Your right Tillman use to be throw up in the zone but he also threw at 95-96 mph.
    He hasn’t seen that velocity in 2 years now.
    It might be time to look elsewhere for a starter if he can’t get his velocity back

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 6:09 pm

      I hear ya. But where is your elsewhere? I’m not confident in the alternatives at this exact moment.

    • MAGICEJS

      April 3, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      I would say Castro, he deserves a shot plus his fastball has been 97 mph.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      He’s also made one big league start in his career. I’m not opposed. But then get him to the minors soon to get stretched out.

  17. willmiranda

    April 3, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    I’m not arguing with criticizing the pitchers, but I’m more worried about the fielding. We’re used to great –mot merely good– defense. Last night, they missed a play at third although the ump bailed them out. Then they got a force at second instead of a double play. A fly to right center went for a triple when an outstanding effort might have caught it. And I’ve heard mention of other gaffes in other games. You can’t be giving up extra outs and extra runs with our staff. Pitching has its ups and downs, but defense is there every day. We Orioles fans are used to gold gloves, and so were our pitchers. The small stadium may discourage pitchers from signing, but the defense is no longer a selling point.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 3, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Good point, Will. This isn’t the D it used to be. And Beckham may be OK at third, but he is going through growing pains (like that force out, where he should have gotten the lead runner).

  18. ptmt86

    April 4, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Pitching. Period.

  19. OrioleMaze

    April 4, 2018 at 10:19 am

    In regard to MLB’s desire to speed up the pace of Oriole games, I have a suggestion…
    Similar to the new intentional walk rule, Chris Davis will not go to the plate. Instead he’ll automatically be called out on strikes. 4 at bats times 30 seconds per called strike would shorten each game by 6 minutes.

    Bat him 9th please.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 4, 2018 at 11:40 am

      Now that’s not nice. Remember what mom said …

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