Chris Tillman’s debut

Amongst the flurry of trades over the past couple of days you may not have noticed that Chris Tillman, of the Batlimore Orioles, made his major league debut on Wednesday. Otherwise known as, “the guy who was in that really stupid trade that Bill Bavasi made to get Erik Bedard“, Tillman was one of the best prospects in the game. In 101.1 innings in Triple A this year, he had struck out 99 batters, walked 32, and allowed just 5 homers, good for a 2.95 FIP.

In his debut, he got to face the offensively challenged Royals; however, he struggled mightily, allowing 3 homers in 4.2 innings. He also struck out 2 and walk 1. However, as a prospect, we care more about the proccess rather than the results. Let’s see how his stuff looked yesterday, first organized by vertical and horizontal movement:


As you can see, his fastball has very little horizontal movement, and a lot of “rise”. Given it’s velocity, it should be decent pitch in the majors assuming he can locate it well enough. His changeup has similar movement to the fastball, with a little more drop and horizontal movement. It’s about 15 MPH slower than the fastball, giving it a very solid speed differential. His curveball is a real yacker, with just under 10 inches of drop. As with the changeup, he throws it over 15 MPH slower than the fastball.

For a better representation, let’s check out his flight paths:


You can see that the fastball and changeup have similar flight paths. Really, the changeup only starts to drop about 40 feet into the path, and it has basically the same path when look at from the top. Again, you can see the movement the curveball has a ton of movement. As Dave Allen pointed out, curveballs with this much break are generally plus pitches for major leaguers.

Overall, he looks like he has very good stuff, and that is obviously how he managed to put up a K per inning as a 21 year in Triple A this year. Now, let’s take a look at how he located to see if we can get an inclination of his approach. First organized by pitch type:


Not much conclusions to be made here. He was all over the place with his stuff, and when he did throw strikes they were out over the middle of the plate. I mentioned he allowed 3 home runs, and the strike zone plot above is the reason why.

All in all, not a very good start for Tillman; however, he showed good stuff and obviously he has a lot of potential. Along with fellow prospects Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta and current major leaguers Brad Bergesen, Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehera (3.52 FIP this year before he got injured), this Orioles staff could be very good in a couple of seasons. Too bad they play in the AL East.

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  1. Dan Novick said...

    Something that’s rarely mentioned with regard to curveballs is the “hump” effect that Josh Kalk found a while back (can’t find the article now). He hypothesized that it’s not just the size of the break, it’s the vertical distance between the avg curve and the avg fastball that makes a big difference as well. I have no idea if Tillman’s is good or bad.

  2. Nick Steiner said...

    From my limited Pitch f/x analysis of individual pitchers, Tillman has a pretty big hump in comparison to most guys.  Actually moreso that Wainwright, which is like, yeah…  However; Waino has a much sharper curve, as evidenced by the length of the two flight paths.

  3. Tim S. said...

    Anecdotally, I understand his fastball usually has more tail than that.  Don’t know if he was overthrowing or if the raid delay had an effect, or what.  Here’s hoping he’s not always that flat.

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