A Baseball Weblog

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tillman on the hill

The Orioles come to Yankee Stadium for a three game set that, weather permitting, will begin tonight.  A.J. Burnett will go up against Orioles' youngster Chris Tillman.  Tillman's been around since 2009, but he's still only 22 (he'll turn 23 on Friday).  He was a highly-touted in the minors (Baseball America's 67th best prospect in 2008 and up to 22nd in 2009), and was a big piece in the 2008 Erik Bedard trade, but he hasn't really done a whole lot since 2009.  Here are a few things I've picked up from going through minor league stats, classifying his pitches through PITCHf/x data, and watching video:

  • Tillman came up with a low-90s fastball, a mid-70s curve, and a changeup at around 80 mph.  He added a mid/high-80s cutter and started using it in the majors last July.
  • He's tall (6-5) and he comes from a high arm-angle.  Not as crazy as Chris Young, but he still gets a pretty unique look.  His vertical release is similar to that of Mat Latos.
  • As is the case with over-the-top motions, Tillman's fastball is typically pretty straight and fly-ball prone (.295 GB rate since 2009).
  • His curveball gets a ton of "drop" (pfx_z typically equals -9 to -9.5 inches for him) and is similar movement-wise to the curves of Cliff Lee and Ted Lilly (though Lee's has some more horizontal "sweep").
  • Tillman hasn't missed many bats in the majors (.161 whiff rate since 2009).  His strikeout numbers were strong in the minors (9.9 K/9 from 2006 to 2009), but dropped in 121 2/3 innings at Triple A last year (7.0 K/9).  He has improved his control, though, as his 2.2 BB/9 last year was the lowest in his professional career.
  • His velocity is also on the decline.  He averaged 92 mph in 2009, lost around a mile and a half per hour in 2010, and so far this year he's only averaging 88.5 mph.  It's still early and pitchers don't usually throw their hardest this early in the season, but it's still alarming.
He's had a solid opening to his season (including a 6 inning no-hitter in his first start).  It's been rocky for him so far (5.84 FIP for his career, third worst in the majors since 2009), but he's still very young

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