Tim Hill’s recent addition to the 40-man roster was a little bit of a surprise for most of us. If you just look at his stats and don’t break things down you probably wouldn’t understand the move. Hill is a LHP who throws the ball side-armed, releasing the pitch about waist level. The funky delivery is hard to pick up for hitters and Hill induces a ton of ground balls as a result.
Hill was a 2014 draftee out of Bacone College in Muskogee, OK. He is origionally from California and stands 6’2″. Hill was a 2014 NAIA Honorable Mention All American and won his Conference pitcher of the Year award with the pitcher’s triple crown leading in W (10), K (100), and ERA (1.89).
At times he struggles to get ball to his glove side, which is expected at that angle. It is an unique delivery for sure because the fastball comes out with an upward trajectory before gravity and spin bring it back down.
Many hitters that face Hill for the first time have never faced a LHP with a release like his. When Hill has the fastball down in the zone it is amazing the weak swings he gets. Guys just flail at the ball with defensive swings. Hill becomes a PFP specialist with all sorts of weird hops and spinning comebackers. The problems start when Hill gets the ball waist-high, because he gets hammered when hitters can read the movement and make adjustments.
Perhaps the best part about Hill is how extremely tough he is on LHHs. In 2017, LHH only hit .175/.211/.214 against Hill. He only allowed 4 doubles and no other extra base hits to LHHs, holding them to a .257 BABIP. 31.2% of left-handed plate appearances resulted in a strikeout.
RHHs see the ball better against Hill, which is expected, because they always seem to hit opposite-throwing sidearmers better than same-sided sidearmers. Righties managed a much better .337/.396/.442 line against Hill. They had 13 extra base hits including 2 HRs off Hill with a .443 BABIP. Even with the higher splits, RHHs still struck out in 23.5% PAs.
Hill’s fastball sits around 88-91 and has sharp armside movement. He throws a frisbee type breaking ball that has some sink but more movement to glove side. I’m not sure if he calls it a curve or a slider but used a curve motion when showing it warming up. He also features a deceptive change up. To be more effective against RHHs Hill is going to have to make that better and command the fastball better.
Going back to groundballs, Hill has an extreme GB rate. Last season Hill recorded 65 GB outs, 17 FB outs, and 10 pop-up outs in NWA. It seemed a majority of GBs are to left side meaning whoever plays third and short should expect the ball a lot. Alex Duvall mentioned a Peter Moylan comparison and that sounds pretty good aside from throwing from the wrong side. A left-handed Peter Moylan is probably the best way to think about Hill as he gets closer to the big leagues.
Big innings plagued Hill. He had 7 outings with 3 ER or more. I know you can’t cherry pick stats but if you took his two worst outings out his ERA drops from 4.17 to 2.99 in the Texas League. Take out his four worst outings and it goes to 2.02. That more than cuts the ERA in half. When you make 36 appearances, 4 doesn’t seem like a big deal. In the adjusted 32 outings he is 62.2 innings, 54 hits, 15 BBs, 73 Ks, and OBA of .208 with that 2.02 ERA. His K/9 in the adjusted outings is also 10.56 and 2.59 BB/9. Now we get a little more of a sense why the Royals protected him.
It’s not certain the Royals would have lost Hill in the Rule 5 but by looking at his stuff and adjusted stats they certainly could have. The Royals believe Hill has value as a reliever in the majors even if it is only as a LOOGY (Left-Handed, One-Out Guy). He will probably start in the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers bullpen and a good season could mean a September call-up., if not earlier than that. Hill is a guy to pay attention too in Spring Training even if it is only an outside shot at making the 25-man roster.