When are people around the baseball world going to start talking about Chris Tillman in the same sentence as David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and some of the other top pitchers in the game? Since 2012 the right-hander has proven that he’s capable of putting up the numbers.
Since 2012, where Tillman was called up mid-season, he’s 28-11, with an ERA of 3.47 in 53 games started. He’s thrown 324.1 innings, striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings, walking only 2.8 batters per nine innings and allowing 1.4 home runs per nine innings. A WHIP of 1.178 is the icing on the Tillman cake. Those numbers, over multiple seasons, prove that Tillman is an all-around stud. He has no real weakness.
I’m not saying that Tillman is better than all of those pitchers listed above, but he’s definitely as good as some of them. He may not be as good as Kershaw is but Tillman should still be considered a top pitcher in baseball. The fact of the matter is, he’s not. Why?
Well, I actually do have a few ideas as to why Tillman isn’t in the conversation when it comes to best pitchers in the MLB.
For starters he pitches for the Baltimore Orioles. We all know that you’ll be hard-pressed to find national appreciation for the Orioles, especially for their pitching. But Jose Fernandez pitches for the Miami Marlins. So again, why is Tillman not talked about as much as some of the other pitchers?
Tillman doesn’t have that “wow-factor” that some other pitchers do. I think that his lack of an “identity” is what turns people off that aren’t close to Baltimore. Tillman doesn’t have electrifying stuff, he doesn’t throw the baseball in the high-90’s, he doesn’t strike a whole lot of batters out but, in the past few games, Tillman has developed an identity as a fighter. A guy who never quits.
While that kind of an identity surely isn’t going to suddenly make him adored by the national media and fans alike, it’s certainly a unique trait. Something that, in my opinion, sets Tillman apart from the rest of baseball’s pitchers.
The second game of the double-header on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates epitomizes my point. Tillman had one of the worst first innings I’ve ever seen, as he walked in a pair of runs and had to throw 49 pitches thanks to 16 foul balls. Yep, you read that right: 49 pitches and 16 foul balls. Instead of throwing in the towel like a lot of pitchers did, Tillman buckled up and got out of the inning allowing only the two runs. Then he went to work by shutting the Pirates down when he struck out eight batters over the course of 4.2 innings, only allowing one run to cross the plate to keep the Orioles in the game. It certainly wasn’t a good game but to keep your team in the ballgame when you clearly don’t have your best stuff is something that’s very underrated in the game of baseball.
Tillman is mentally the best pitcher in all of baseball, nothing, and I mean nothing fazes this guy. Tillman is going to make one heck of a postseason pitcher, just you wait and see.
If you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, then you should feel very lucky to have Tillman as the ace of the Orioles’ staff. Tillman works hard, he produces results and he sets a great example for the rest of the rotation. His leadership qualities and his determination are two traits that you can’t see by looking at a stat sheet and there’s no real way of quantifying them.
To conclude, Tillman isn’t flashy, but he’s one heck of a pitcher.