Toronto Blue Jays, Kevin Pillar & the Top of the Order

 

Jays From the Couch explores the idea of whether Kevin Pillar is the best option at the top of the Toronto Blue Jays’ order

 

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The Toronto Blue Jays have handed over the leadoff job to Kevin Pillar. He has been tasked with setting the table for the big bats in Toronto’s lineup. It was an idea that would have been laughed out of most rooms not too long ago. But, he used this past Spring Training to convince management that his approach at the plate was good enough to handle the job.

 

We know that he will take his hacks. That hasn’t changed. He swings rather freely. But, he has managed to have some success in the leadoff spot. As I outlined for Blue Jays From Away, Pillar got off to a hot start in April, surprising a good number of people. But, as I dove into, he saw that performance decline in May. Overall, Pillar still holds an OBP of .305, which is not the worst thing in the world. Here we are in June and his performance has dipped even further to .174/.219/.275. Those are some fugly numbers. This has led me to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, it is time to remove Pillar from the top of the order.

 

So, what is manager, John Gibbons to do? This is an interesting question, considering he has stated that his philosophy is to just let his players ride out these streaks: 

You know I can be stubborn and I am a patient guy and guys that have always done (good things) I like to leave them alone because eventually (performances) come out of them. And with certain teams if you start juggling too much it causes more chaos. And believe it or not, guys identify with certain spots. That doesn’t mean we won’t do it because we’ve done it in the past. But we do talk about that, especially when you hit those stretches when you’re not scoring.”

 

Don’t be surprised to see Pillar continue in the leadoff spot, especially if Devon Travis is out for the season. But, if the Blue Jays are going to actually get back to .500 and even think about the postseason, they have to figure out the leadoff spot in an effort to score more runs. The problem is that it would appear that there is no clear option for the team. But, let’s explore some ideas anyway.

 

One idea that comes to mind is to insert Russell Martin in the leadoff spot. Matt Gross explored this idea at Blue Bird Banter. The very first reason that this makes sense is the on base ability Martin brings to the table. His career rate of .351 would be much more appealing than Pillar. As well, Gross points out that it would save the many double plays Martin hits into…well, at least it would save one per game. The issue with this is that you have your catcher in a spot that requires more speed than he can give. Fangraphs (Fans Scouting Report) ranks his speed at 46 and his baserunning at -2.1. Not that that is the most important part of leading off, but for a guy who will see the most at bat, especially in front of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales, you need some wheels.

 

So, who else gets on base? The first person to say Ezequiel Carrera is gonna get it! I don’t care of his 2017 OBP is at .366 (yup, you read that right). In the past, we would have considered Jose Bautista for the job, but he isn’t doing much to make returning to that idea palatable. Not that it would have been a good idea, Troy Tulowitzki is struggling lately, so he’s out. No one in their right mind would try Morales of Justin Smoak. Ryan Goins, anyone? No? Shocking.

 

Here’s an idea that could work:

 

 

I mean, we could try anything at this point, right? This season, Steve Pearce is hitting just .233 against lefty pitching (SSS alert! 32 PA) with a wOBA of .326. For his career, he’s hitting .268, but his wOBA is .364. He’s led off before and hit .385 in 16 plate appearances. For his career, Bautista’s wOBA is about the same versus lefties and righties at .371 and .370 respectively. Again, if he were living up to this, he would be a logical choice for the top of this order. Now, his 2017 wOBA against righties is .360, so I could be convinced to give this a shot.

 

At the end of the day, the real issue is that the Blue Jays have to give something a shot. The Kevin Pillar train has kind of run out of steam. This whole thing might say more about Gibby than anything else. How much longer can he ride out a struggling Pillar in such an important role in the lineup? Letting a guy play through his woes is one thing, letting him do so in the one spot that sees the most at bats is another. Will Gibbons continue his loyal ways? Will being ‘Gibby’s Guy’ continue to pay off for Pillar at the detriment of the team?

 

Or, will recent comments from Josh Donaldson (about Bautista and Morales not getting on base enough, even though Pillar bats in front of him and gets on even less) have an impact and will the players be able to sort out what their manager refuses to? Will they pull another executive decision and choose their own leadoff hitter like they did when Bautista was slotted in the spot?

 

At this point, they could hold a Twitter poll and come up with the next leadoff hitter. It couldn’t be much worse. Or, maybe we’ll send them the results of our poll. Have your say HERE:

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III  UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

 

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.