Five Players Who Can Help the Orioles Beat the Projections

Credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images North America

Credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images North America

Chris Tillman, SP
Steamer Projections: 32 starts, 11-12, 193.0 IP, 4.28 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9

Tillman had been one of the biggest FIP beaters over the three years leading up to the 2015 season. His 3.42 ERA was nearly a full run lower than his 4.22 FIP. There were moments last season when it looked like he could continue that trend, but ultimately, injuries spelled Tillman’s downfall. He finished with an 11-11 record and 4.99 ERA. He was at his best in July, going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA over 34.1 innings. The wheels fell off after the month turned to August, thanks to nagging injuries. The month of July was the only month in which Tillman’s ERA was below 5.00.

If Tillman is to succeed in 2016, one thing needs to happen first. He cannot be allowed to throw a single inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. In six starts against the Jays last season, Tillman had an 11.72 ERA while allowing a 1.129 OPS. No team hits the tall right-hander quite like the Blue Jays do. Tillman does not have great strikeout stuff, but is generally able to induce soft contact. That approach works against most teams, but the Blue Jays are not one of those teams.

Tillman’s finest season with the Orioles came in 2014. He started the season slow that year, as has been customary in his three full years with at the major-league level. It’s unreasonable to expect Tillman to post a 3.34 ERA in 2016, but he must be significantly better than 5.00 for the Orioles to have any chance at the postseason. It’s been reported that the Orioles are close to signing Yovani Gallardo for over a week now. Smart money would be on the Orioles getting a deal done. Gallardo and Tillman are capable mid-tier arms on any good postseason team. If both can defy the odds once again, the Orioles have as good a shot at the playoffs as any team in the AL East.

To a lesser extent, Miguel Gonzalez is another interesting case study. He is an even bigger FIP beater than Tillman, having posted a 3.23 ERA in 2014 to go along with a 4.89 FIP. The 31-year-old right-hander should never be expected to turn in a 3.23-ERA season again in his career, but he should be better than last year’s 4.91 ERA. Injuries derailed Gonzalez from May on. Everything has to be perfectly right for him to excel and fool hitters. Doug Fister is a similar example. The Orioles should be happy if they can get a sub-4.00 ERA out of Gonzalez at this point. He is a gamer on the mound, but his stuff is unimpressive, and his home-run rate was alarming last year.

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