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Chris Tillman: Young Fireballer Continues To Shine

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 12:  U.S. Futures All-Star Chris Tillman of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the World Futures All-Star during the 2009 XM All-Star Futures Game at Busch Stadium on July 12, 2009 the in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Bleacher Report Senior Writer IJuly 18, 2009

O's fans can't be encouraged by the play of the major league team. In most cases, eight runs should result in a victory. But in a loss, the O's scored eight runs on Friday night against the Chicago White Sox, but fell, 12-8.

However, one thing fans must be encouraged by is the dominant pitching of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta. Tillman has been very consistent all year long.

At 21, you wouldn't expect this kid would dominate Triple A batters like he has. However, Tillman seems to be one of a kind. At 6'5", 195lbs, he has ideal build for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher. Not only is his size ideal, he performs. He can throw his fastball up to 95 miles per hour, but works more comfortably in the low-90's.

He has an above average changup and curveball, and knows how to use them. Baseball America scouted him before the year and seemed to be very high on him. "Has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation type. At worst, he should become a workhorse in the middle of a big-league rotation soon."

Acquired in a trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle, Tillman, along with four other players, including All Star center fielder Adam Jones, were sent to Baltimore. Some say the move could soon be known as the "Chris Tillman trade."

At 20, in Double A, he dominated in 2008. In 28 starts, he was 11-4, had a 3.18 ERA, and struck out 154 in 135 and a third innings. However, he walked 65, and because he threw so hard at such a young age, some O's fans wanted to keep him in Double A to work solely on command.

However, the organization didn't see it that way. They saw Tillman as a guy whose command was improving. They were right in thinking so. In 17 starts in the 2009 season, he is 8-5, has a 2.42 earned run average, 22 walks, and 95 strikeouts.

His record is very deceptive. In his last ten starts, he has a 2.53 ERA, has struck out 42, and walked just nine batters. Seems deserving of a vast amount of wins to me. Right?

Wrong.

In those ten starts, he has three wins and five losses, and his record went from 5-0 to a slightly above average 8-5. This has everything to do with the promotions of catcher Matt Wieters, infielder Oscar Salazar, and outfielder Nolan Reimold, who provided all of the thunder in the Norfolk lineup.

You could make a solid argument that Tillman only truly deserves anywhere from two to three losses, and also nine to 12 wins.

"I scouted him as an amateur. He was a wonderful acquisition for us in that trade. He's got a little bit of the 'it' factor. He's got an intangible he draws from. He's a quiet, confident guy. He knows how to pitch.

"He's going to have to continue to develop his changeup. The fact he had the success he had without using it as much as I think he needed to, that's encouraging, but he'll have to improve on that," said O's scouting director Joe Jordan.

Tillman has been able to do that. The encouraging part is not his domination of Triple A hitters. Everyone knew he was capable of that. However, in Double A, he was his own worst enemy, always putting himself into jams by walking people.

However, as of right now, he has comparable strikeout: walk ratios (95 K, 22 BB), to Brian Matusz (110 K, 27 BB) and Jake Arrieta (103 K, 34 BB), who are both thought of as strike throwers, especially Matusz.

Tillman's time is coming. He's dominating the competition at Triple A, and he's on a roll right now. He's not only blowing it by hitters, he seems to be able to put it where ever he so pleases right now (0.9 BB per start last ten appearances).

And this isn't a knock on Matusz or Arrieta. To say the least, both are having tremendous years. Matusz is the ninth overall prospect in baseball, just a spot behind Tillman, and statistically, Matusz is having the better year.

Matusz has a fantastic record (9-2), ERA (2.11), and has exhibited better control all year long. Arrieta's also having a great year, with an 8-6 record, 3.29 ERA, 103 strikeouts, 34 walks, and a very low opponent's batting average of .223.

However, Tillman has improved drastically. I guess all I can say is...thank you Seattle Mariners.

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