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Unexciting and dull, Tillman perfect choice for WC game

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He isn’t perfect, and lacks the do-or-die flash, but Chris Tillman is the Orioles most reliable starting arm, and the obvious choice to pitch the O’s into the ALDS.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What a time to be alive.

The Orioles are back in the postseason for the third time in five years, and who woulda thunk it! Even crazier than smashing PECOTA’s preseason projections by 17 wins, the Orioles’ Twittering masses took to the polls and mentions to spill their thoughts on why Ubaldo Jimenez should start the Orioles one-game playoff in Toronto this pleasant good evening.

Well, there have been worse ideas.

Despite looking like he’d never pitch for the Orioles or anyone ever again through his first 81.2 innings, where Jimenez posted a cornea-crushing 7.38 ERA/4.89 FIP, the $13M man was reversely perfect to end the year. With a 2.82 ERA/3.82 FIP over his last 60.1 innings, Jimenez ended up being the most impactful midseason acquisition the O’s could have made. I wrote about his mechanical adjustments for SB Nation’s Beyond the Box Score, and in summation, he cut down on a lot of unnecessary movement towards home plate, and thusly, saw his biggest bugaboos become more manageable.

His walk rate shrunk from 12.5% to 9.1% in the second-half, and with more strikes and pitcher’s counts, Jimenez’s still very good stuff flourished. His opponent .181/.263/.310 slash since the start of July has certainly been aided by a .212 BABIP, but much of it is a testament to how Jimenez’s running fastball and pile-driving splitter play in the strike zone. In one of baseball’s more dazzling turn of events, Jimenez starting the Orioles most important game of the year was actually a strongly versed hypothetical.

But in the end, Buck Showalter went with his guy.

Chris Tillman is rather unspectacular, and in most circles he’s probably not the most exciting guy in the room, but the Orioles know what they’re gonna get. In a do-or-die format, there’s no shame in aiming for comfort.

Excluding a very disappointing 2015 season, Tillman has been the model of consistency the Orioles have been in dire need of leaning upon, given the organization’s willingness to send away young arm talent while acquiring baseball’s most notoriously average Joe’s. Whereas Jimenez may be the guy in need of a heat check, the steadiness of Tillman is no forgotten matter either.

We know we what he is at this point. Since 2012, and including said disappointing season ago, Tillman has racked up a respectable 3.75 ERA over that span, including an average of 189.2 innings per season the past four seasons. While his walks allowed have steadily risen from year to year, and even worse his strikeout rate has stagnated, it hasn’t really mattered. In terms of managing contact, Tillman does it as well as anyone. And in a game such as this, in an environment the Orioles are fatefully set to play in, bending to the boundaries of breaking may very well determine if the Orioles survive the hostility across the border.

The Jays are gonna get their hits, it’s inevitable. A lineup made up of Donaldson’s, Encarnacion’s, Tulowitzki’s and Bautista’s are gonna get theirs. Cauterizing the first wound, maybe a second, and hopefully not a third, will be essential. The Orioles cannot succumb to what is surely going to be the loudest, emotional baseball game they’ve played in two years. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone better suited for the nerves than Tillman.

Yes, he’s boring. To be honest, I can’t remember a time I heard him talk prior to yesterday’s press conference. Even when he talks he sounds like he doesn’t want to. But at the risk of swapping out your glove for your putter for the next four months, boring is good.

There isn’t a tangible way to calculate what boring means on the mound, but to me, boring means that the moment is never too big. That inning-by-inning, batter-by-batter, pitch-by-pitch, the scales of emotion never favor one direction. That Tillman is a statue, as stoic as he is undaunted. No matter what happens, whether good or bad, the Orioles most trustworthy arm will remain what he always has been and probably always will be: emotionless.

The Orioles are already being cast aside yet again, no way capable of overcoming the talented Marcus Stroman and even more talented lineup in one of baseball’s most deafening arenas. As only seems fitting, Showalter will call upon the guy who’s personified the ball club at every champagne shower, every projection of doubt, and every column titled “How in the hell do they keep winning?”.

The Orioles head to Toronto, and everything that makes these Orioles, the Orioles, will be on the mound to extend their right to postseason play. And if that means more boring beer drinking from the winning pitcher...

...I think we’ll be OK.