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When Chris Tillman takes the mound in New York tonight, there may be some fans checking the radar gun readings almost as much as they check the ball and strike count.
There has been a lot of discussion among the fans that Tillman's velocity may be down and they are wondering if that impacts his pitching and not in a good way. Some fans cited a lack of his normal velocity as a reason why Tillman gave up four runs in his start against Detroit, but he seemed to be throwing with similar velocity when he blanked Tampa over six, no-hit innings.
At the same time, I think too many of us can get obsessed with that gun and we automatically seem to rank a prospect that throws mid-90s as having a better chance to make it than one throwing less than that.
We always seem to want to see that mid 90s heat.
Sure, a flamethrower may have more margin for error and be able to get away with more mistakes than a high-80s fastball pitcher, but velocity is not everything. There are many pitchers who have said they get better command and control and also more movement of their pitches when they back off a few miles per hour.
Tillman may be one of those pitchers. In fact, when I asked him recently if his velocity is down now from what it was in the high minors, he cited seeking better command as a reason the velocity is down and said, "if I need it, it's there."
You can listen to this clip of Tillman talking about his velocity.