Maximizing Potential

Tonight's starter Chris Tillman is looking to maximize his potential in 2011.

When the Baltimore Orioles traded Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners in 2008, many people wondered if the Mariners hurt themselves by mortgaging their minor league system for a starting pitcher that was always injured. Inside the 5-for-1 trade, Chris Tillman was one of the top prospects in the Mariners system and was thought to be a solid number 2 pitcher in the majors. Since the trade Tillman has excelled in the minor league levels in Orioles affiliates Bowie (AA) and Norfolk (AAA), compiling a 30-17 record with 347/121 K/BB and a 3.12 ERA in 3 seasons with the Orioles minor leagues.

Unfortunately the Orioles Front Office and its fans are still trying to figure out when we will see these kinds of numbers in Baltimore. As of April 2, 2011 Tillman has been below average to mediocre at best in the limited time that he has pitched for the Baltimore Orioles as he's earned a career 4-10 record with 5.87 ERA. Another glaring difference is in the minors Tillman put together almost a 3/1 strikeouts to walks ratio but is almost even with the numbers of strikeouts to walks in the majors. However there is still that p-word that is still floating around Orioles fans that are waiting to see what they got in Tillman: potential.

There has been some division amongst fans in what they see in Tillman. A number of fans have argued that he's only 22 years old and need one full season to with the Orioles to determine whether or not he has what it takes to be a consistent pitcher. One criticism of Tillman is that his minor league numbers could be misleading because he has pitched in Harbor Park, the Norfolk Tides stadium that some would consider a pitcher's park. Although Chris Tillman has already pitched 65 innings in the majors and doesn't qualify as a rookie, he still is relatively new to the majors. He has yet to start more than 12 games in a season and with a new pitching coach in Mark Conner, Tillman could reach his full potential in the 2011 season.

After being recalled for the September call ups, Buck Showalter used the remaining season to gauge the young starter. In five starts Tillman put together a 1-1 record with a 19/18 strikeout to walk ratio and a 4.15 ERA. Although those are not really sexy numbers, three of the five games that he started were at Camden Yards with an ERA of 3.94 which is much lower than his career ERA of 5.56. Three primary concerns for Tillman will be control, command and WHIP. If he works on the first two then he should have fewer walks and hits which will lead to a much lower WHIP than his career of 1.54. To do that, he needs to get his k/BB ratio back to around 3/1 as he did in the minors when it helped him get a career WHIP of 1.33. With Showalter wanting the young pitchers to hit the strike zone more often, we should see at least a small increase of strikeouts from Tillman.

Using this year's Spring Training stats would be unadvisable by me as Tillman's numbers from this year has been comparable to what he's done since 2009. However with cautious optimism, we should see great improvement with this youngster.

Projected 2011 Stats: 10-11 W/L, 4.40 ERA

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