Top 5: ‘Ace’ Pitchers in 2015 AL East

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Jul 24, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5) Chris Tillman – Baltimore Orioles

Bio: 27 y/o, 6’5”, 210 lbs

2015 Record – 11 Wins, 11 Losses

ERA – 4.99

FIP – 4.45

WAR – 1.9

K/9 – 6.63

IP – 173

‘It Factor’ – One step forward, two steps back

All didn’t go quite according to plan for the would-be Orioles ace, this year. After a promising 2014 campaign posting, if nothing else, a serviceable 3.34 ERA in 207.1 innings pitched, there had been high hopes in the Orioles front office that he was the man to lead them to another post season.

Instead, he led them to batting practice, surrendering 176 hits in a mere 173 innings and allowing 64 walks which would, had he pitched a career average amount of innings, been a career high amount of free passes. Yikes!

Where did it all go wrong for Tillman? It wasn’t in fastball speed, which remained around his career average at 92.31 mph. It was actually a combination of a few things. For a start, he was projecting towards a career-high number of home runs surrendered, which could be as a result of playing in such a hot league. Teams like the Toronto Blue Jays hit dingers the way you and I hit a shift key. Tillman took a 15.50 ERA from his five starts against the Blue Jays.

More to the point, there seemed to be an overall absence of control that led to a number of pitches, in particular with his changeup, left up all too often in the strikezone. Just such a pitch had the dubious honor of being the offering presented to New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez for his 661st homer, moving him into 4th on the moonshot list past Willie Mays.

So suffice it to say, the 2015 Chris Tillman project didn’t quite pan out as expected. Yes, he had a better second half than a first, but overall it simply wasn’t what Baltimore wanted or needed. They came close to a Wild Card slot, but the absence of a true ace standing in front of Tillman in the rotation may have made the difference.

Next: 4 - Masahiro Tanaka