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Should Chris Tillman be considered a serious Cy Young contender?

The Orioles right-hander has been a steady force in the rotation.

The Orioles are playoff contenders in spite of their starting rotation. The staff’s 4.82 ERA is ranked 24th in the MLB and it’s the worst of any “contenders”. However, the starters have been buoyed by one consistent presence in right-hander Chris Tillman, who may have a legitimate shot at garnering several Cy Young votes.

This isn’t a new thought. Reddit has a full thread about it. Back in July, Bovada gave him 161 odds to take home the award. And Beyond the Box Score named him as a logical nominee last month. But it needed to be batted around the Camden Chat community.

Much of this talk centers around ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor, which currently lists Tillman as sixth in the award’s pecking order. That’s four spots below teammate and Orioles closer Zach Britton. Since 2002, there have been 28 Cy Young winners (14 in AL, 14 in NL) and this ESPN tool has selected the correct winner 20 times. So, it’s a pretty solid tool.

When it comes to Britton, it’s easy to see why he may even be the Cy Young favorite. He is the best closer in baseball, going 37-for-37 in save opportunities with a 0.54 ERA, .145 batting average against and an ERA+ of 827. Those sound like “video game numbers”. But with Tillman, it has been much more modest output.

Tillman’s case

Few of Tilly’s numbers are too eye-popping. His 3.46 ERA is 35th in the bigs. The 151.0 innings he has thrown are 17th, his 126 strikeouts are 37th, .236 batting average against is 31st and 1.21 WHIP is 37th. The 15 wins he has are his biggest sticking point. With a month and a half remaining in the regular season, the magical number 20 is within reach. If that happens, it could be a game changer, provided no one else gets there.

Another big factor in Tillman’s favor is that the overall field for the Cy Young in the American League is kind of weak and lacking in big names. Well-known pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, David Price and Yu Darvish won’t be widely considered for votes based off of personal or team performance and injuries. That leaves the door wide open for dark horse candidates.

The problem

However, there are a lot of dark horses up for the challenge. Toronto’s J.A. Happ is ESPN’s favorite right now, and for good reason. He’s thrown 143.0 innings, has a 2.96 ERA, while winning a league-leading 16 games. After that are guys like Boston’s Rick Porcello and Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez, who you could argue are both having slightly better campaigns than the Orioles ace.

And then there is Cole Hamels sitting there, boasting both a big name and decent-enough stats. The lefty has thrown more innings (153.0), more strikeouts (149) and a lower ERA (2.88) than Tillman.

History is against him

The ultimate Cy Young Award winner has had an ERA of 2.90 or better every year since 2007. Tillman’s sitting at 3.46. And traditionally, the Cy Young winner is a leaderboard topper in at least one of the big categories: wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings, etc. Tillman leads the league with 25 games started, but in everything else he is middle of the pack.

An Orioles pitcher has not won the award since 1980 when Steve Stone took home the trophy with a 25-7 record, 3.23 ERA and 250.1 innings pitched. The only AL team that has waited longer for the award are the Texas Rangers, and they have never won it before.

It’s not looking good

I think we can all see the writing on the wall with this. Yes, Tillman has had a good, solid season and his starts have been a refreshing reprieve from what has been a repulsive Baltimore rotation until recently, but he probably isn’t going to win the Cy Young Award.

However, that is not to say things cannot turn around. With a little less than two months to go, the Orioles are in the most important stretch of the season. It is basically a dead heat between them, the Blue Jays and the Red Sox for the division crown. If Tillman continues to be a deciding factor in that race, he could easily become a front runner for the award.

If the right-hander gets to 20 wins and pushes the O’s into the playoffs, why couldn’t he win the Cy Young? I mean, come on! This guy has one. Surely Tillman winning wouldn’t be so ridiculous.

What are your thoughts? Should Chris Tillman be considered for the 2016 AL Cy Young Award? If so, where can he finish? If not, why? Let us know in the comments section or on social media. Thanks for reading!