Back before the season started, we talked about Kevin Pillar’s ‘new approach’ at the plate, how he intended to be more patient at the plate. Many of us expressed disbelief that he could make a major change, after two part and two full major league seasons.
In 2016 Kevin had a 4.1% walk rate. I said I’d be happy if he could come up to a 7% rate (just a little below league average). In the thread we had guesses that ranged from 4 to 10%. In spring training he had 6 walks in 65 PA, a 9.2% rate.
Then the season started. He took a walk in the first game, and then didn’t take another until game 18. Before that second walk he had 1.4% walk rate and we were thinking that not that much had changed. I mean he was hitting well enough, .319/.338/.478, so we were ok with it, but there weren’t that many signs of a new and more patient Pillar.
Since that second walk, he’s been a changed man. In his last 97 PA he has had 12 walks, a 12.4% rate.
Buck and Pat have been telling us he’s a different hitter, now that he’s had 1500 MLB at bats under his belt. I’m not really ready to say he’s all new, all different. He’s always been a streak hitter (I tend to think all hitters are streak hitters). This has been a particularly good stretch (.327/.392/.542 over the last 26 games). I wouldn’t expect him to hit like this forever (or, you know, we have future Hall of Famer), but I think we should enjoy this stretch. You should always enjoy the good times.
He’s also hitting for more power, yesterday’s walk-off homer was his 5th of the season. Last year he had 7 in 584 PA. Before the season, I said I’d like to see his power numbers come up a bit, since, his thumb injury was a thing of the past and he’s hit his age 28 season, he should be a able to give us 15-20 home runs. I’m still thinking that would be a good range.
It’s tough to know when to decide if change in batter is a real change or it if is a hot streak. Ryan Goins gets two hits in a game and Buck and Pat will tell you he’s figured it out, all he needed was playing time. Then you look and he he’s hitting .230/.292/.368. Or, maybe we should believe that Justin Smoak’s .274/.316/.500 means that he’s finally figured out how to turn his potential into performance?
Early season numbers are always fun to look at. I like to wait until the player hits a cold streak and then we’ll see. In Pillar’s case, when/if he hits a cold steak, I’d like to see if he can still take some take some walks and see how long it takes for him to pull out of it. There is a line saying a team is never as good as it looks when it is winning and never as bad as it looks when it is losing. I think the same about players, don’t leap to judgement with a players is hot or cold.
Another part of Kevin’s game is base stealing. He is 6 for 10 as a base stealer, pretty close to the break even point. Before the season I said:
His stolen base number dropped last year too (14 steals, down from 25) and his success rate dropped too (70%, down from 86%). We tend not to get faster as we age, so I doubt we’ll see 25 steals from him again, though it is possible that the injury to his thumb inhibited him some. I’m ok with him picking his spots, stealing enough to make teams take notice when he’s on base.
I still think much the same. I’d like him to pick his spots. The team times how long it takes the pitcher to get the ball to the plate. They know which catchers have good or bad arms. Pick the right moments. He’s not going to lead the league in steals, but if he gets 15-20 and has an 80% success rate, life would be good.
With the offense he’s put up and his defense, I’d love to see him make the All-Star game. He deserves it (and it isn’t like we have a dozen other All-Star candidates). OF course, a day after a walk-off home run, anyone would look like All-Star.
Anyway, what do you think, is this the new Kevin Pillar, or is this a hot streak?
If Kevin Pillar’s over/under on walk rate is 7.5% I would take the
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