Checking In On Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman did not have a particularly good run with the Orioles this year, and was demoted to Triple-A at the end of May. With the O’s desperate for starting pitchers*, I was wondering if Tillman’s minor league performance perhaps warranted a call-up.

* Chris Jakubauskas is bad, but it’s not really his fault that he’s getting knocked around. He doesn’t really have any business in the starting rotation (outside of an occasional spot start), and I have no idea why the team decided to put him there. The results were not at all unexpected. Mitch Atkins will probably not end up being a different story. Why is Brad Bergesen still in the bullpen again?

In a word… no. Tillman has 35.2 IP for Norfolk, and his numbers actually look worse than they did in Baltimore. He’s not striking anyone out (5.3 K/9), walking a bunch of batters (4.3 BB/9), and getting taken deep with regularity (1.5 HR/9) – all coming together for a 5.64 FIP. That kind of production is more indicative of a guy needing to be demoted than promoted (though it’s only 7 games).

The strike-out rate especially is an issue. Tillman always had trouble K’ing batters in the majors, but at least we always had his minor league numbers to provide some hope of improvement. Here’s his minor league strike-out rate by year:

2008 (AA): 10.2 K/9
2009 (AAA): 9.2 K/9
2010 (AAA): 7.0 K/9
2011 (AAA): 5.3 K/9

What a coincidence, since here’s a graphical representation of my confidence in Tillman turning into a quality major leaguer:

Stats: K/9 & BB/9, FIP