The first month of the Orioles' season has felt much like a rollercoaster ride that hasn't been fully tested just yet. Sure, they've performed a bit better than expectations originally had them, playing well enough at home to perch atop the division, but the in-depth numbers haven't always made sense.
Across the board there have been a wide variety of small sample-sized numbers that speak in all kinds of different directions regarding the rest of 2016's outlook. Certain parts of the lineup have delivered, other parts don't seem to want to contribute unless it's the first or ninth innings, and watching the bullpen is akin to playing the lottery night after night.
It's been a strange ride, yet one that sees the Orioles in prime real estate to compete for the AL East crowd down the road.
To continue their dominance and raise the bar a few notches higher, three arms in particular will be of paramount significance as we enter the summer months.
Quite frankly, digging into Tillman's numbers is the easiest of anybody on this Orioles team. Because he's consistently been on the field over the course of the last three seasons, we've really been able to understand what to expect over the course of a full season.
Through his first six starts, the in-depth numbers show an intriguing story on the 28-year-old righty. Whatever the reason may be, Tillman is missing the sweet spot of opposing bats at an impressive rate.
Our Alex Conway had a great piece on this yesterday with some great in-depth analysis.
Reflected in totality within his 9.3 K/9 rate, Tillman has mixed things up with a fresh cutter/slider that has lead to rising "whiff rates", something that has actually increased the value of his regular four-seam fastball. With that pitch, he's getting hitters to swing and miss 13.6 percent of the time (pre-Tuesday start). Dating back to the August 2013, Tillman has had just one month where he missed that many bats with the classic fastball.
Bottom line: the numbers are showing that Tillman is missing bats at a very encouraging rate.
He's allowed just one home run in his 32 innings of work, an impressive number that pairs with a 25.8% "soft contact" rate, per FanGraphs (pre-Tuesday). Considering he hovered around 17 percent throughout the last three seasons, it's safe to say these early numbers might be strong enough to be considered trends instead of an overall aberration.
Because he saw his first eight innings out of the bullpen, some may argue that Wilson's numbers are slightly skewed. However, we're dealing with incredibly small sample sizes to begin with. These numbers are meant to give a small glimpse into a wide variety of pitching aspects, not solid projections. Plus, at the end of the day, pitching is pitching.
Wilson is unique in that he's a young pitcher who doesn't rely on a flashy heater or strikeout numbers. He'll pick up Ks along the way, but his game isn't predicated on the "miss bats" philosophy, and his major league numbers serve as proof.
He likes the fastball plenty, but its average velocity of around 91 miles per hour often forces his hand to resort to pitches of the softer variety, namely the slider.
Like Tillman, Wilson has seen plenty of fine results within his tweaked arsenal. He boasts a very solid 31.7% soft contact number, effectively continuing to keep his label of a ground-ball pitcher. Using the sinker, slider and change on a regular basis, he too is missing the heart of the opposing bats.
Don't let that 4.6 K/9 number fool you. Wilson has plenty in the tank to retire the heart of lineups. He's crafty, but effective.
With just 11 innings to his name this season, this Gausman breakdown might be the king of all sample sizes. That's why we'll keep this short and sweet.
The good news for Gausman lies within almost every one of his categories, which through two starts look to be on par with expectations. He'll be a candidate to win every time out, especially if his current 50% ground ball rate continues to stay steady.
What's intriguing about the Gausman arsenal is his new slider/curveball pitch. Everyone is a bit puzzled with the exact description of the newly-found offering, but you won't find too many people complaining. Gausman told the media before the spring that he was going to throw more breaking pitches more often in hopes of gaining comfort and adding another devastation option to the opposition. Thus far, it's been working.
Just two starts in, it's anyone's guess as to where Gausman will level out to once he's 15-20 starts in. But if he can continue firing the classic fastball/change/"splitter" trio with a few extra doses of the nasty curve/slider, it's hard to imagine he'll fare any worse than the Ubaldo Jimenez's of the world.
*All stats and information c/o FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball*