Most baseball fans, including my own, knee jerk reaction when Buck Showalter did not send out Chris Tillman for the 7th inning when he was working on a no hitter of the Rays(who else right?) through 6 was, “What the hell is he doing?” After getting that initial shock out of the system and looking a little deeper at the situation and numbers, maybe Buck’s move tonight was not so insane after all.
Chris Tillman had pitched 6 innings, allowing no hits while walking 3 and striking out 5. He also, had thrown 101 pitches up to this point. This is the equivalent to throwing 16.8 pitches per inning. At this pace Tillman would have ended the game over 150 pitches, had he went the distance and succeed with the no-no(obviously he would have been pulled if it was broken up at any time after this point.) The old school baseball fan, like myself, wants to see these kids work deeper into games and not have an automatic hook after 100 pitches. The reality of the game these days though is that organizations will do all they can to protect their young arms because they are such a major investment and usually the keys to a successful, winning future.
There seems to be no other rationale for Tillman getting pulled when he did outside of the pitch count situation. He was consistently throwing(on average) between 90.5 and 89.1 MPH over his six innings. This shows us that he clearly had not lost much a considerable amount of velocity over the course of the game and despite walking Ben Zobrist in the 6th inning he was still in great command of all his pitches. However, the fact of the matter is that Chris Tillman has never thrown more than 110 pitches in a regular season game at the major league level. The 110 pitch game came in 2009 against Texas on September 4th. At this point in the year his arm was plenty stretched out and in shape to throw that many pitches in one outing. Tillman only threw 135 pitches in all of Spring Training this year; his peak in one game being 46 against Boston last Sunday.
While it would have been incredibly epic to see a 22 year old rising star throw a no hitter on the 3rd day of the season it is will be better in the long run to not gas a young kid in his very first start of the season. Manager Buck Showalter believes this team has a chance to be very successful this year, as well he should considering Baltimore went 34-23 under his tutelage last season. Buck is a very good manager and looks big picture. Despite my initial reaction(as seen by my immediate tweet) the right move was made. At the end of the day the Orioles won the game 3-1 and that is the ultimate goal.
Final note: Chris Tillman must love to pitch in April. Along with this performance, for those who do not know/remember, Tillman tossed a no-hitter at AAA Norfolk last season on April 28, 2010.