Unlike some fans and analysts, I am not a huge believer that a high strikeout rate is generally a predictor that a pitcher will do well. But I do put some importance on it and it stands to reason that a pitcher with a lot of strikeouts must have something going for him.
If you look at Chris Tillman's strikeout rates at Triple-A Norfolk this year, he is ringing up the Ks at his best rate since 2009 when he had an ERA of 2.70 for the Tides.
Tillman averaged 9.2 strikeouts for every nine innings he pitched in 2009 with the Tides and this year that number is 9.3
Tillman's strikeouts/9 IP ratio the last four years at Triple-A:
9.2 - 2009
6.9 - 2010
6.4 - 2011
9.3 - 2012
Tillman is still just 24 and there is plenty of time for him to become a key part of the Orioles rotation both now and in the future. But the guy had an ERA of 5.52 in Baltimore and 5.19 in Norfolk last year, and that wont get it done.
As he returns to the majors this afternoon to start at Seattle, he is 8-8 with a 3.63 ERA this season for the Tides. But Tillman has an ERA of 2.89 over his past 11 starts and 1.06 over his last three.
Sure, he still has trouble being pitch-efficient at times and often runs up pitch counts too high and too fast, but the results are clearly better for him the last several weeks and it will be interesting to see how he does today against the Mariners.
He is facing, by the way, the club that drafted him in the second round out of a California high school in 2006.
Tillman has certainly gotten some limited chances over the years and is 7-15 with an ERA of 5.58 in 36 Orioles starts since 2009. The Birds are 14-22 in those 36 games.
As he returns to the club today, he does so after pitching well at Triple-A and with his strikeout rate on the increase for the first time in several seasons.
We certainly can't judge him off of one start today, no matter how it goes, good or bad. But maybe the increases in the strikeouts is a sign that Tillman's time has finally arrived.