23 June 2015

Why Chris Tillman Has Struggled in 2015: Part II

(This post doesn't include stats from Sunday's game).

In my previous post on the subject, I noted that one of the major reasons why Chris Tillman has been struggling this year is because he has given up a large percentage of walks with the bases empty primarily because he has thrown a larger percentage of balls with the bases empty this year than in years past. In this post, I wanted to see whether he was having any problems with a specific pitch.

As an affiliate of the ESPN SweetSpot Network, writers for Camden Depot have access to ESPN’s TruMedia Site and can use it to create heat maps that show Tillman’s accuracy for each of his pitches (defined by ESPN as fastball, changeup, curveball and slider (actually his cutter)) in 2015 and from 2012 through 2014 with the bases empty.

Below are charts showing where he's thrown his fastball with the bases empty from 2012 to 2014.


And here's a picture with the bases empty in 2015.


Tillman has been throwing strikes with his fastball albeit a bit up in the zone in 2015 with the bases empty. Also, his low fastballs have been out of the strike zone more often this year than in years past. But things more or less look good, right? Well, it turns out that he's having some struggles throwing his fastball against right handed batters with no one on base.

This shows how he did against righties from 2012 to 2014.

And this shows how he's done this year in the same situation.


His problem has been that he’s been throwing his fastball outside more often this year than in past years against right handed batters. He’s thrown 20.3% of his fastballs outside this year as opposed to 18% in previous year. It's not a major problem but Tilman throws his fastball more often than any other pitch and therefore even a minor problem can have a huge impact. I didn't notice any problems with his fastball against left handed batters.

Here's Tillman's change-up with no one on base from 2012 to 2014.

And here it is in 2015.


I think it's safe to say that Tillman's changeup has been a disaster with no one on base this year because that chart is ugly. I mean, he's not coming close to the strike zone most of the time. His problems become clearer when we further filter the results by whether the batter is a lefty or a righty.

Here's how he's thrown his changeup against lefties in 2012 to 2014.


And here's the pitch in 2015.


From 2012-2014, Tillman was able to place the pitch in outer part of the strike zone. This year, he's pretty much been solely throwing the pitch outside and nowhere near the strike zone. That's simply not going to work in the majors.

This is how his changeup looked from 2012 to 2014 with the bases empty against right handed batters.

And here is how it has looked against right handed batters in 2015.


His changeup was being located properly in 2012 to 2014 but this year it's simply been thrown low and outside of the zone. The bottom line is that opposing batters don't need to worry about his changeup because he can't locate it. If they hold off, then it will likely be a ball anyway. Obviously, this puts Tillman at a disadvantage.

Surprisingly, as we'll see in the next post, he's only having this problem when there aren't runners on base. It's reasonably accurate once runners are on base which could indicate a possible mechanical problem. In any event, this seems to be a major reason why Tillman is struggling.

Next up is the curveball. Here's how it looked from 2012 to 2014 with no one on base.

And here's how it looked in 2015.