Chris TIllman’s second start, against the Detroit Tigers yesterday, went a little better than the first. His 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K line didn’t look too impressive, but the majority of the damage was in the first inning. After that, it was 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K, which is the more the kind of line I’d expect from him once he starts making some adjustments. Tillman started really working the curveball in much more than he did in his first start. Against the Royals he actually threw more change-ups than breaking-balls, but yesterday it was 14 change-ups to 32 curves. It was a very good pitch too, getting three swinging strike-outs and, in general, throwing it for strikes half the time. The pitch movements still show a relatively straight, riding fastball (which it looks like was only swung and missed once), a good change-up, and of course that monster curve. Let’s compare his location charts though, using data from Brooks Baseball.
Here’s his first start.
Notice that big clump of pitches – mostly fastballs – up and out of the zone, but in the middle of the plate. And only three curveballs ended up below the knees.
And here’s yesterday’s start.
Way fewer pitches up and out of the zone, and look at all those curveballs down. He’s still working in the middle of the plate too much, but if he keeps moving down at this rate pretty soon everything will be at the knees (no, that’s not a serious statement).
With only 2 walks in his 10.1 IP in the majors and a 2.4 BB/9 rate in Triple-A this year, Tillman seems to have developed some decent control. The command – being able to really spot his pitches and not just throw strikes, but quality strikes – is still a work in progress. With regard to all the flyballs, I had heard previously that Tillman threw a two-seamer in the minors. With a fastball at 93-94 and the off-speed stuff at 78-81, it seems like it would serve him well to throw the two-seamer occasionally, even if it’s only 88-90, in an effort to get a few more groundballs. I realize his first two starts in the big leagues might not be the best time to start tinkering with stuff, but if Brian Bannister can up his groundball rate I don’t see why Tillman couldn’t (theoretically).
[Edit: After writing this I saw that Dave Cameron at Fan Graphs has covered similar ground. Great minds, ey?]