This writeup is just some observations from Chris Tillman‘s most recent start. This is not a report because you need to see a few more outings before shaking out where he is at this time. His overall performance from the box score draws great reviews. But digging a bit deeper, Tillman still needs to find some consistency and improvements to maintain effectiveness over the long haul.
Chris Tillman’s mechanics are no longer a string of highly moving parts. Tillman is a big guy and the anchors are long. What he has done is quieted the overall movement, keeping his center of gravity in a stable location as he pushes off the mound. He stayed within himself, kept his motion quite, limited movement and was able to maintain a good release point throughout the game.
The plane on Tillman’s fastball is much improved, as he has found a balance from the release point to ride high and down. A downhill fastball is a tough adjustment for any hitter, but seeing it at the 93-96 mph consistently makes it even more difficult on any hitter.
Obviously, Tillman’s speed improved and hitting 97 mph gives him more room for error, as long as he can control the pitch in the zone. Most hitters will have a difficult time catching up, especially if his change up is working as well.
Tillman’s change up has improved in its horizontal action and rides better into the right handed hitters. This is where it should have been a few season ago. Already showing solid vertical movement, the two way action on his change should be a nice addition when he can maintain the release point.
His Curve was getting quality bite and induced some poor swings. The action was playing well off the fastball and he mixed it up effectively.
Tillman showed improved poise when things did not go his way. He never displayed frustration in missing his spots, and kept his head high when he finally was getting tagged by the Mariners lineup.
Chris Tillman’s overall arsenal was not seeing much horizontal movement, and some of his offerings were a bit flat. It is something to watch as he continues to face better lineups.
He started to go back to falling over on the side in the later innings, instead of coming over on his front side. Overall, I would like to see him get over his front side more as he did pull up quickly after the release more than a few times. For a big pitcher, getting the weight over the front foot and staying down through the delivery helps refine the release point.
He did not show enough deception in his delivery and guys were able to pick up the ball and make contact. It is tough to square up with the vertical plane on the fastball. If they can pick it up and Tllman makes a mistake, it could cause trouble. This could be a troublesome wrinkle that needs to be monitored.
I would prefer a heavier fastball diet, but when it is all four-seamers I can see the need to limit it to 55-60% of the offerings.
Tillman’s big body and 1 o’clock release point beg for some horizontal movement by manipulation grips. He is not throwing from a 3/4 slot that gives you natural run. It may not grade out, but simply a “show me” pitch with horizontal movement would help the other pitches play up.
His change up rode a bit higher than I would have preferred, and I noticed a bit of toe drag. This is common practice to “take something off”, along with the amount of coverage you apply to the ball. This is a different approach for him and it could take awhile to get his release point down, but it is something that should improve the more he continues to refine it.
Chris Tillman’s issues to date were tied to the ability to string a good start with the next, and build on it with the third start. He has the size, plane, and arsenal to be effective over the long haul.
Tillman’s issues were tied to the mental aspects of pitching. Even though he showed a bit more poise, how does he bounce back from a so-so or poor outing? What does he do when the curve is not working? What happens when he does not stay on top of the ball? We just do not know at this point. This is all the key for his growth as a pitcher and ability to make him a mainstay in the Orioles’ starting rotation.
Tillman had an outstanding outing, made some great pitches, and got away with a few mistakes. He did everything you ask for out of a starter. Tillman can improve some aspects of his game and is not nearly a finished product. These new teachings give him a better foundation for success, but to maintain effectiveness over the long haul he has to constantly change and adapt to his competition.
A report is out on him now from every scout in attendance. All pitch F/X reports tell a story. The question is now: does he stay one step ahead? Throw a new wrinkle? How does he keep hitters guessing?
Tillman’s ability to turn from “thrower to pitcher” took a great first step against the Mariners. I look forward to watching his progression and hopefully he can be an additional arm to solidify the rotation.