Kevin Pillar sure is great isn't he? Go on the Fangraphs home page and look under offensive leaders. Scan the names and you'll see some familiar faces. Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado for one. But you'll also see some new ones. Among them, Mr. Pillar himself.
With 1.4 WAR, Kevin Pillar sits 18th in the entire league in WAR per Fangraphs. Of American League outfielders he sits second only to the baseball immortal himself, Mike Trout.
In reality, this is just a one month sample where he's enjoyed an incredibly hot couple of weeks. We can't forget that Pillar struggled mightily to start the season, hitting just .181 with an on-base percentage of .235 in the leadoff role before being moved down to his current spot at no. 8 in the order. Since that day on April 17, he's raked, hitting .365 with a .396 on base percentage.
Last season Pillar had a breakout year at the plate. Earning his time as a starter, he hit .278/.314/.399 with a wRC+ of 93. Offensively, he's never been known for walking with just a 3.9 per cent walk-rate, so it was questionable why he was ever put in the leadoff spot but that's a rant for another day.
That said, what made Pillar, Pillar; what made him Superman, was his ability to catch the uncatchable. His ascent to being one of the top centre fielders in all of the game has been truly something to behold.
It's easy to see with the naked eye Pillar's exemplary fielding. That look on your TV when the ball goes careening out to centre is quickly accompanied by the innate feeling of comfort as a viewer that, 'hey Pillar's got this.' Last year Pillar finished second among all centre fielders in DRS with 22. A year earlier, that would have been the tops in the entire American League with Leonys Martin the next best at 16. However, last season Kevin Kiermaier was simply unforgettable as he saved, according to fangraphs, 42 runs over the season. That made Pillar little more than a throw in when it came to the Gold Glove conversation at the end of the season.
While many might have dismissed his performance as a fluke, this season he's been even better. In 247.2 innings this season he's already saved 6 runs. Averaging it out per game, Pillar is saving approximately one per cent more runs per game. While that may seem like nothing right now, when it comes to the end of the season, it can make a significant difference to a player's value. If he plays as many innings as he did last season (1382 innings or 153 games) he will have saved 33 runs by season's end--10 more runs than last season or one win--and will almost assuredly receive the Gold Glove award.
Of course, this is just one small look at how Pillar has performed this season. We're barely into the 2016 season on May 6th and it's expected he's going to regress back to his mean performance at some point. But that doesn't mean Jays nation can't give him a collective pat on the back for a job well done.
In a little over a year Pillar has cemented himself as a fan favourite and the starting centre fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays. Up next: one of the best centre fielders in the game and a proud owner of a Gold Glove.