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Tillman struggles again, cause for concern?

Chris Tillman in 2009, pitching with a straight leg, belt-low right hand and head-high left hand.

Chris Tillman in 2011 with a bent knee, lower right hand, and much higher left hand.

Orioles’ right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman was once called the top prospect in baseball. He was supposed to the next great Orioles Ace at the top of their rotation but he hasn’t panned out quite yet. Tillman is only 23 years old so giving up on him already would be a foolish thing to do but the stats don’t lie.

Since his debut in 2009 Tillman has started 34 games for the Orioles and earned a 6-14 record. His latest loss came today in game one of the team’s double-header against the Yankees. Though he struck six batters out, Tillman allowed five earned runs from eight hits in only 4 1/3 innings pitched, boosting his season ERA to 5.16. It also boosted his career ERA to 5.47.

Tillman just dominates his competition when he goes down to the minor leagues, striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings. But when he hits the majors he struggles and may just be a “Four-A pitcher” aka a guy who pitchers like a top-notch prospect in the minors but can’t bring that to the majors.

The worrisome thing with Tillman, though, is that his velocity drops when he gets to the majors. When Tillman first hit the majors his fast ball was sitting between 91 and 94 mph, hitting 96 mph at one point, but the last two years his fast ball has dropped to the 87 to 91 mph range.

The velocity drop could be credited to a few different things. His arm may be wearing down but his windup and release are different now. He used to really bring his knee up, maybe to the top of the letters on his jersey. Now his knee barely hits the letters at all. But also, when he plants his left leg, early in his career it would be very stiff and he would rotate around by twisting his hip. Now, his knee is slightly bent and his turn comes on his knee.

Perhaps these were moves to help Tillman get better control on his pitch but they haven’t proven to be good changes him his game and unless he figures it out soon confidence could start becoming a major issue as well.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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