Blue Jays’ Year in Review: Good, Bad & the Ugly- Kevin Pillar
Jays Journal takes a look back at 2017, and the good, bad, and the ugly of each individual performance from the roster, starting with Kevin Pillar.
While 2015 and 2016 brought playoff excitement for the Blue Jays and their fan base, 2017 was the year of disappointment for baseball in Toronto. There were several positive individual contributions, but overall the team battled injury and inconsistent performances to a 76 win season.
Perhaps one of the best examples of the latter would be Kevin Pillar, who at times looked like the team MVP, and at others barely appeared as though he belongs on a major league roster. 162 games is a long season, but Pillar’s month to month splits left fans frustrated at times, and with a worse perception of his season than reality would represent. Let’s have a look:
As I mentioned, there were times when Pillar was lighting the world on fire, just as he did in the month of April. He hit .256/.300/.404 with 16 home runs and 42 RBI, adding 15 stolen bases and finishing with 2.8 bWAR on the season as a whole. While his defence was scrutinized at times this year, he finished with a 1.9 dWAR in 2017, so he’s still an asset in centre field. He also made his share of highlight reel catches this season, as he usually does.
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For Pillar, it was the high points that pulled his overall numbers up to where they landed. He had two good months, two average months, and two poor months, playing in 154 games in total and being one of the lone starters to avoid the disabled list.
As mentioned, in April he started off like gangbusters, hitting .301/.339/.505 and getting bumped up to the top of the lineup, where he flourished for awhile as the rest of the team was historically bad in the opening month. He was also rock solid in August, hitting .293/.323/.402, and calmed down a Blue Jays’ fanbase that was starting to get tired of watching him struggle. And on perhaps the highest note, he became a father at the end of the season as well.
Since as I mentioned, Pillar had two “average” months, let’s take a look at those in the bad category. After excelling in April, his batting average dropped to .252 in May, and the biggest culprit was chasing pitches out of the zone, an issue he’s struggled with throughout his career. While the season’s opening month brought plate patience for the 28 year old, he started to fall back into old habits as the season wore on.
As far as “bad” goes for Pillar, the biggest thing was that he didn’t take the steps forward on offence that the team hoped he would. His batting average fell 10 points from 2016, his on base percentage was his worst as a starter, and he set a new career high for himself with 95 strikeouts.
When you look at the body of his work throughout the season, it was solid overall, but the Blue Jays had hoped he would make a leap on offence. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
That brings us to the lowlights of the season for Pillar, and unfortunately there were a few. During his two “ugly” months, he hit .212/.255/.337 in June, and followed it up with a .211/.253/.367 mark in July. He looked completely lost at the plate at times, and was dropped to the bottom third of the order.
One has to wonder if the real lowlight of the season for Pillar had something to do with his drop-off in performance. For those who’ve forgotten (sorry to bring it up again), Pillar was caught using a homophobic slur while on camera during a game on May 17th, and he received a two game suspension. While there is no room for that type of thing in 2017, it was pretty clear that he was remorseful, and it seemed to impact him in more ways than one. Fortunately it’s been put in the past for the most part, because otherwise Pillar has been a solid role model throughout his time as a professional.
I’ve always believed that Pillar had more offensive potential than he’s shown us so far, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m wrong about that. He’ll be 29 next season, and while he’s got some time to figure things out at the plate, he’ll have to do it sooner than later, especially as his defensive contributions start to tail off as he gets older.
I’m going to go with a .268/.321/.412 batting line with 14 home runs, 52 RBI and 18 stolen bases for Pillar in 2018, using nothing but my imagination as a database. I know some people think he may be challenged for his job in centre next year, but I see that being more likely in 2019, especially as he gets more expensive through arbitration.
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He may not be an MVP candidate, but the Blue Jays could do a lot worse than Kevin Pillar as their starting centre fielder, even if we’re always left hoping for a little more.