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The season that was: Kevin Pillar

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A look at Pillar’s 2018 season

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Coming into his fourth full season, we pretty much knew what the Blue Jays were going to get from Kevin Pillar.

In his first 3 full seasons he’s had OPS numbers of .713, .679 and .704. You could make money betting he’d finish with 25 points of .700.

His OBP went from .314 to .303 to .300, you could guess he’d be within spitting distance of .300.

For a guy who has huge hot and cold streaks, his seasonal numbers are very consistent.

Then Kevin has a terrific spring training, hitting .438/.460/.667 and he’s saying all the right things and Buck and Pat are telling us that it takes a hitter 1800 at bats to figure things out at the major leagues. Course the year before, when Kevin had a good spring and a good start to the season, we were told he figured it out. Odds are we’ll be told the same next year if he’s still with the Jays and he gets off to a good start.

The thing is he looks so good when he’s on a hot streak, you can convince yourself that it will never end. And then, when he’s going bad it looks like he’ll never get another hit.

HBP 1425425126512940215591431898.252.282.426.7089386
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2018.

Baseball Reference has him at a 2.5 WAR. FanGraphs 2.0 (the same as last year), giving him a value of $16.2 million to the Jays. In his 4 full seasons his fWAR was gone 3.7, 2.4, 2.0 and 2.0. bWAR has gone 4.9, 3.5, 2.8 and 2.5.

He had a .302 wOBA and a 89 wRC+. His wRC+ for his four full seasons, 94, 82, 86 and 89.

Kevin’s walk rate dropped (3.3% from 5.2, it almost can’t drop anymore) and strikeout rate went up (18.1% from 15.9).

Compared to 2017 his line drive rate was up (26.6%, from 20.4), ground balls down (37.8%, from 36.4) and fly ball rate up a bit (37.8%, from 36.4). More of his fly balls left the park (8.7%. from 6.6).

His hard contact was way up (34.0%, from 27.3), but his soft contact was much the same (21.4%, from 22.5).

His BABIP was about the same as last year (.281, from .280). You would think the increased hard contact would have moved his BABIP up.

Kevin hit RHP (.259/.293/.424) slightly better than LHP (.235/.256/.430). Last year he was much much better vs. LHP and career he’s been much better against lefties. I don’t know what was going on this year.

He hit had more power at home (.243/.270/.456), but got on base better on the road (.261/.295/.395).

Kevin was ok with RISP (.272/.305/.386) after being terrible in that spot last year (.168/.218/.257).

He was better in the second half of the season (.262/.290/.464) than the first half (.247/.279/.407).

Pillar by month:

  • April: .305/.351/.552 with 4 home runs in 28 games.
  • May: .235/.277/.333 with 0 home runs in 28 games.
  • June: .210/.218/.350 with 3 home runs in 26 games.
  • July: .216/.231/.351 with 1 home run in 11 games.
  • August: ..278/.290/.467 with 3 home runs in 24 games.
  • September: .244/.289/.462 with 4 home runs in 25 games.

You’ll likely remember his rather strange injury in July. If he had hit at all in June and July it would have been a very good season. He had 18 walks, 13 of them happened in April and May.

Defense? FanGraphs has him at a 2.5 UZR/150 in center field. His last three seasons went 16.8, 6.3 and now 2.5. I’m guessing the next number in that sequence would be around 1.0. He made 6 errors, 4 fielding, 2 throwing. And he had 7 outfield assists. The drop in UZR pretty much matching what my eyes see. He’ll be 30 in January. I’m kind of worried that all the crashes into walls and into the turf are taking their toll.

FanGraphs has him at 4.5 runs better than average on the base paths. Last year he was 1 run better than average. He had 14 stolen bases, caught just 3 times. He was easily our best baserunner. The next highest baserunning number was a 0.7 by......Josh Donaldson. I’m sure you would have guessed that.

Where Kevin hit in the batter order:

  • 1st: 1 game.
  • 2nd: 5 games.
  • 4th: 3 games. (really?)
  • 5th: 63 games.
  • 6th: 34 games.
  • 7th: 11 games.
  • 8th: 8 games.
  • 9th: 7 games.

His longest hitting streak was 9 games. Longest on base streak was 11 games.

His favorite team to face? Kevin hit .444/.483/.704 with 1 homer in 7 games vs. the Royals and .304/.333/.913 with 4 home runs and 2 triples in 6 games vs. the Rangers.

Least favorite? He was 0 for 9 against the Marlins. Among AL teams he hit .077/.143/.154 against the Angels.


Last year Kevin had a career high in walks at 33, this year he had his lowest number (18) in his 4 full seasons. But he set a career high in doubles with 40.

He turns 30 in January, but he’s still not a free agent until 2021. I’m all for shopping him now and see what we could get for him, but I think I said this last year. Much of his value had been tied to his defense in CF, but he’s getting closer to where we would be better off with him in a corner outfield spot, but I don’t think his bat would work in the corner spots.

In the ‘I’d rather trade him a year too early rather than a year too late’ thing, I’m not sure that this isn’t a year too late, but then next year might be way too late. We could use some pitching depth, and Pillar might be able to bring us a pitcher in return.

He seems to be an all out all the time player. He might be better off to pick his spots. If we are down by a few, maybe he would be better off not running into the wall to make a catch. Maybe it would be better for his career in the long run.

And, like Gibby pointed out, loudly, maybe he could use his head on the base paths. Trying to steal third with two outs, when we are down a few runs, might not be the best use of his skills.

The other thing we noticed this year, that I don’t remember from other seasons, Kevin seemed to throw to the wrong base fairly often. I don’t know if it’s just cause all the outfielders were throwing to the wrong base, so I was sensitized to it, or that it was something we just didn’t notice before.


So picking a play of the year for Kevin, most years it would be a catch, but this year.....his most exciting moment of the year was when he singled and then stole three bases, with the steal of home to cap it off.