Each MLB team’s biggest X-factor

TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Shohei Ohtani
TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Shohei Ohtani /
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Baltimore Orioles: Chris Tillman

For the first time since 2012, the Baltimore Orioles will enter a regular season coming off a losing record. It isn’t hard to find someone to take the blame for Baltimore’s 75-win effort in 2017. The Orioles had the worst starting rotation in the entire league with a 5.70 ERA. Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez were obviously to blame for most of the struggles, but former staff ace Chris Tillman was absolutely abysmal while trying to come back from a shoulder injury.

The writing was on the wall for Tillman and the Orioles after he was shelled in the minor leagues during his rehab assignment. The big right-hander had a 7.16 ERA in 16.1 innings while working back and gave up seven home runs. That was just a sign of things to come. Tillman went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 93 innings while allowing 24 home runs and walking 4.9 per nine with only 6.1 strikeouts per nine.

With only two sure bets in their rotation — Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman — the Orioles didn’t have much choice but to bring Tillman back on a one-year deal, hoping for the best. From 2012 to 2016, the 29-year-old was 65-33 with a 3.81 ERA and a trip to the All-Star Game in 2013.

Tillman has never had “ace” stuff, but he served as the ace for the Orioles before falling off a cliff. He is still young enough to make a recovery and salvage his career, but shoulder injuries are difficult to predict. If the Orioles get anything close to resembling the pitcher that led their staff for the better part of five seasons, their playoff hopes get a major boost this season.