Kevin Pillar has been one of the better defensive players in the game since taking over as a starter in Toronto, but now that he’s added value on offence, should he dial it back a bit?
It seems like a foregone conclusion when the ball is hit to centre field against the Blue Jays. If the ball stays in the park, there’s a really good chance that Kevin Pillar is either going to catch it, or hurl himself without self regard, making every effort to bring the ball in.
It’s a scene we’ve grown very used to as Blue Jays’ fans over the past few seasons, as Pillar went from a 32nd round draft pick in the amateur draft, to a potential All-Star. From 2015-16, Pillar more than earned his spot on the team with his defence, and this year he’s managed to take strides forward with the bat as well.
Monday night was no different, as Pillar threw himself into harm’s way early in the game, making a spectacular catch in dead centre field, and slamming himself into the wall in the process. Have a look for yourself:
What a thing of beauty, even if it’s cringe-worthy.
In the past when I watched Pillar do something like this, it was easier to cheer for another highlight reel catch and applaud another selfless effort to keep the opposition off the scoreboard. Now, I have to admit, I cringe a little, especially when the wall comes into play at full speed.
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Through most of his big league career, the California native knew that he had earned his spot on the team with his glove. Without the plus defence in centre, there’s a good chance he could have been a 4th outfielder, or potentially even of the dreaded “AAAA” variety. However, once given the opportunity in 2015, he’s taken the job and never looked back, largely because of that effort and disregard for his own safety.
That said, I’m arguing that now is the time to dial it back, even just “half a notch”.
I know what you’re thinking, “the good ones don’t know how to turn it off”, and to a certain extent I would agree with that as well. It’s not an easy thing, especially when you’ve carved out a niche for yourself as that type of player. However, for the sake of the longevity of career and the success of the Blue Jays’ season, it would be nice to find something closer to a happy medium.
It may not have been related in any way, but he finished Monday night’s game 0-6 at the plate, on an evening when everyone else in the lineup beat up on the Cincinnati Red’s pitching staff. It’s just one night, so there’s no sense in reading too much into it, but I couldn’t help but think about his tough night at the plate after watching him stretching and wincing a bit, after having made another spectacular catch against the wall.
Pillar’s slash line for the season sits at .281/.332/.438 with 7 home runs, 13 RBI, and 8 stolen bases, while largely spending the season as the leadoff hitter. Now that Devon Travis is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball, Pillar will need to continue to produce at the plate in order to continue to lead the lineup, and staying somewhat healthy could be an important key to that type of success.
And while it’s next to impossible to get someone like Pillar to modify the way they play the game, I can’t help but think he might be better off leaving the occasional ball to fall in rather than run full speed into the fence, padded or not. Now that he brings as much value on offence as he has been, is it worth it?
You tell me Blue Jays’ fans, because I’m not sure.