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Chris Tillman Becoming Legitimate #1 Starter

After going 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.22 WHIP last season, Baltimore right-hander Chris Tillman is off to a strong start in 2014.  In fact, Tillman is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his first two starts this season, including limiting the stacked Detroit lineup to just one run on five hits in 8.3 innings of work in his last outing.  Tillman has has also enjoyed success versus Toronto against whom he has a 3.86 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in ten career starts.  We also like the fact that Tillman is supported by a very strong Baltimore bullpen that owns a 2.79 ERA and 1.27 WHIP this season, including a 1.74 ERA and 1.25 WHIP at home and a 1.74 ERA and 1.11 WHIP versus division opponents.

Meanwhile, Toronto right-hander Dustin McGowan made his first start since 2011 against the Yankees on April 4 and was blasted for eight hits and four runs in just 2.7 innings pitched (13.48 ERA; 3.371 WHIP).  Even worse news for McGowan is the fact that Baltimore’s Camden Yards increases home runs by 29% to left-handed batters, and the Orioles’ lineup will have at least five left-handed bats in tonight’s lineup.  Let’s also note that Toronto’s bullpen owns a 7.20 ERA and 2.20 WHIP on the road this season, together with a pedestrian 4.07 ERA and 1.69 WHIP versus division opponents. Tillman has posted a 26-10 record over the last two years because of a rapidly improving skill set that resembles a legitimate No. 1 starter in the majors.  Specifically, Tillman has effectively increased in his swinging strike rate, together with improving his control and command. His four-seam fastball is the genesis of the improved swinging strike rate:

Tillman’s Four-Seam Fastball Swinging Strike Rate Last Three Seasons:

  • 2011: 4.6%
  • 2012: 6.5%
  • 2013: 8.0% 

We expect Tillman to dominate a scuffling Toronto lineup that is batting just .223 with a .294 on base percentage this season (3.8 runs per game), including hitting .205 with a .286 on base percentage on the road (2.7 runs per game) and .216 with a .275 on base percentage versus division opponents (3.1 runs per game).  In contrast, Baltimore is batting .294 over its last seven games and .290 versus division foes this season.

Pro Edge Sports Pick: Baltimore Orioles (-134) 

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