The time to panic was about four starts ago. While the gutting out six inning starts in between one inning meltdowns is cute, this is a cause for alarm. Somebody has replaced Chris Tillman with an inaccurate, ineffective, down right bad version of himself.
Well maybe it still is him, but this has becoming beyond troublesome. One of the supposed stalwarts at the top of our rotation has started to show quite a lot of the old bad habits that made him bounce between the minors and majors. There is an extreme lack of command of his fastball. Anytime he is up in the zone, hitters lick their lips. The dip in velocity has become a bit of a pandemic as well. When Chris was having most of his difficulty, the fastball range was 89-91 mph. Considering his change up only sits in the 83-86 range, that makes it hard to fool hitters when your speed isn’t that deceiving.
The first thing I started to think was that Chris may be dealing with some sort of leg ailment. The inability to push off his back leg would certainly explain a drop in velocity as well as a sudden lack of accuracy. Unfortunately for us, Chris is an absolute work horse and would only come out of the game or admit injury if a limb was hanging off. This leaving us with the question of what else can we do to fix our “ace?” That my friends is where our secret weapon comes in.
Rick Peterson was brought into the organization in January 2012. He was quickly given the title of director of pitching development. That spring, he would officially get his first chance to work with Chris. Rick’s technique for coaching includes what is know as a bio-mechanical video analysis. This helps him to breakdown every component of a pitcher’s delivery and can detect where one may be losing power and accuracy upon delivery. The proper motion toward home guarantees better results. Considering this man had a hand in developing the likes of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and a cavalcade of other All Stars, this is a money back guarantee.
After having his meeting with Rick, Tilly would be sent to the minors to learn the ins and outs of what Rick had taught him about his delivery. As you all remember, Chris would go on to have the best half of a baseball season in his young career. We all remember what was said next. “He still needs to repeat it next year.” Or my personal favorite, “Let’s see him handle a full season.” I think after an All-Star nod, and 16 victories (it would have been 20 if not for a certain closer), the naysayers were silenced.
Here we start 2014 and Tilly was looking as though Justin Verlander would be calling him for advice. Somewhere along this season, Tillman has lost what made him so impressive. The command of his fastball and curve ball were the resounding keys to success. Without those to get him though, Tillman resembles more of a middle of the rotation guy as opposed to the ace he was becoming.
So while some think it is an injury, only Chris knows if he’s healthy. For the time being however, maybe Rick should visit with the team for a few days with his analysis video of Tillman. With a few comparisons, I’m sure they could find what’s ailing our number one and get him back to dominating hitters once again.