My dear Chatters, I am here to tell you that reports of Chris Tillman's demise have been greatly exaggerated!
Okay, that in itself was a great exaggeration, but it's interesting to dig a little deeper into Tillman's numbers at Norfolk this year as collective frustration with Tommy Hunter and Dana Eveland mounts. I''ve limited my inquiry strictly to Tillman's past and current AAA performances.
Tillman has made 7 starts for Norfolk this season and has averaged a tick under 6 innings per outing. No great shakes, for sure, but it's not all doom and gloom. Tillman is posting his best K/9 since 2009 (2012: 8.49, 2009: 9.22). His BB/9 is a concern at 4.14, which while improving on last year's 4.44, is inflated by nearly two walks over his BB/9 as a 21 year old, a mere 2.42. In 2011, Tillman allowed an average of two home runs per nine innings.This year, however, Tillman's HR/9 seems to have fallen back in line with his career numbers at Norfolk (2012: .65; 2010: .74; 2009: .47).
Tillman's ERA in 2011 was an unsightly 5.19, but his FIP of 6.25 suggests he was lucky to do that, uh, well. Despite Tillman's gaudy 2011 home run rate, batters only reached based 26% of the time they put the ball in play. Compare that to this year: his ERA is a pedestrian 4.79, but his FIP is a solid 3.71, which is a reflection of the nearly opposite season he's having, outside of similar walk rates. Add to all of this Tillman's inflated .364 BABIP this season, and a picture emerges of a somewhat improved (and unlucky) Tillman. One more interesting note to toss into the mix is that Tillman's GB rate this year is 50%, whereas his previous best at AAA was 43%
Tillman's not a kid anymore, but he's still only 24 and it's not unreasonable to think he may be called into action at some point this season and I have modest hope he can succeed, but to paraphrase the words of John Cleese, it's not the despair I can't stand, it's the hope.