Toronto Blue Jays center fielder, Kevin Pillar has seen his production drop off dramatically. It is it a result of peaks and valleys, or is there more to it?
If you are a fan of fantasy baseball, you might be one of those people who choose your favorite team’s players because you really believe in them. If you’re reading this, it means you may have chosen your share of Toronto Blue Jays to round out your team. While guys like Josh Donaldson are a smart pick, others might come with a bit more risk. For example, choosing Justin Smoak would have come with a certain amount of giggles from those in your league, but his start to the season certainly would have quieted the gigglers.
One of the players I took a chance on was Kevin Pillar. His spring led me to believe that he made some adjustments to his approach at the plate and would turn himself into a sneaky pick up. And, for the first 7 or 8 weeks of the season, I was right. Pillar would be one of the few bright spots in the miserable April for the Blue Jays. And, he was one of the only bright spots on my fantasy team.
But, like the Robert Frost poem says, ‘nothing gold can stay’, Pillar has seen his performance tail off recently (Wednesday’s 3-run home run in Oakland, notwithstanding). It has tailed off to the point where he was benched on my team so as not to undo my mediocre rise in the standings. But, the real question that needs to be answered here has nothing to do with my fantasy team. Instead, it has to do with Toronto’s leadoff hitter: What is happening?
After getting the season started with an offensive outburst, Pillar has cooled down lately. Take a look at his monthly performance:
It should be noted that it may have been unreasonable to expect Pillar to live up to his hot start. After all, we have more evidence to suggest that he wouldn’t than we do to suggest he would. That said, there has to be a reason why his last 14 games have seen him hit just .133/.220/.178. I mean, that is bad even for the Kevin Pillar we have seen in the past, let alone the guy who started like a house on fire. Something has changed.
One would think that pitchers would have started to adjust to Pillar’s success. Maybe, they would start throwing him more breaking balls down and away, remembering his free swinging ways from the past. But, the reality is that, if anything, they are throwing him more fastballs.
The issue lies on Pillar’s end as he is swinging at more breaking and offspeed stuff than he did back in April. In fact, the change in approach is quite dramatic.
What is interesting is that Pillar doesn’t have a single strike out in June. That’s 26 plate appearances without a K. So, when he is swinging at the offspeed and breaking stuff, he is making contact or fouling pitches off. His June ISO mark has dropped all the way to 0.42, which suggests a major drop off in power.
Another factor in Pillar’s dip in performance has to be the decrease in BABIP. He has gone from .325 in April down to .208 in June. The simplest way to think of this is that he has run into more and more bad luck as the season has gone on. But, we should also consider his numbers against the shift. This season, he is hitting .307 without the shift and .172 against different forms of it. That will have an impact on his luck at the plate.
Does all of this answer the question of what is wrong with Kevin Pillar? No. The simple fact is that this is the first stretch this season that Pillar has struggled. At this point, we just don’t know if those offseason/spring adjustments have paid off in a permanent way, or if, like water, Pillar will settle to his level. The above info suggests that an aggressive player is being aggressive to get himself out of a funk. That could mean abandoning a new found approach.
Or, all of this could be us looking at the regular valley that you would see in any player in the fun of a season. We started off bearing witness to peak Kevin Pillar. Maybe, this is just a blip and his adjustments at the plate are for real and he will be the same guy we saw in April. Basically, we need to see how long this stretch will last. Hopefully, it is just a blip. My fantasy team needs him.
Shaun Doyle brings you his commentary courtesy of Jays From the Couch!
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