Jays From the Couch brings you a look at what you can expect in 2017 from Toronto Blue Jays’ CF, Kevin Pillar
Toronto’s centre fielder Kevin Pillar‘s season seemed to mirror the Blue Jays’ season as whole. Good at times, poor at times, steady, but not what was expected as a whole. This was reflected in his fWAR dropping from 4.3 to 3.4. Not significant, but noticeable nonetheless.
The 2015 Wilson Defensive Award winner didn’t waiver on his defensive responsibilities in 2016. In fact, according metrics he produced 21 DRS [defensive runs saved] over 1293 innings, compared to 22 over 1383 innings the previous season. Along with that came a jump in his UZR/150 to 26.3 from 15.4 in 2015. It’s hard to believe that he could have had a better defensive season than what he showed in his first full season, but that’s exactly what happened. Someone with his skills learning to play the centrefield position in a more efficient manner is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Fortunately, his premium defensive abilities helped to somewhat overshadow his lack of production at the plate. Not that his 2015 was overly spectacular, but his 2016 took a step back from those numbers. Pillar has always been known as a free swinger, and it caught up to him at moments during the previous season. His anxiousness saw his K% tick up from 13.5 to 15.4, which as a whole, isn’t considered poor. However, the numbers that better reflected his struggles can be seen in his batted ball rates. Along with a rise in his K%, his GB% jumped over 4%, while his LD and FB rates each went in the opposite direction. Swinging and missing more while hitting more balls in play on the ground is not an effective offensive strategy to say the least.
It should also be noted that Pillar played the better of two month during the season with a thumb injury. It was a serious enough injury that it eventually required offseason surgery to be repaired. Whether or not it made any significant difference to his offensive production and/or approach is difficult. But, it would be foolish to dismiss it totally.
|162 Game Avg.||162||594||68||148||32||2||10||53||16||25||95||.267||.303||.385||.688||85|
Understandably, the projections for Pillar are not overly friendly, and nor should they be if they are being honest. The only foreseen issue is we already know is a majority of his WAR will be attributed to his defensive abilities, so these projections would assume that he takes a step back on both sides of the ball. Quite frankly I don’t see that happening. If anything he has shown his defensive efficiency has gotten better which each season.
This leaves us with his offense dragging down his overall contribution to the ball club. This is where Pillar can certainly help shape the perception he has around the league at the moment. He’s made comments to where his is working on his pitch recognition and trying to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone. So far we have seen a some progression with this during Spring Training; however, if it remains when the lights come on in April, is a whole other story.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.