By now, you’ve seen the defensive highlights of Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Kevin Pillar. He’s become known as a one-man crusher of dreams for extra base hits. In the outfield, Pillar plays baseball like a five-year-old learning to ski — one speed with very little regard for future bodily injury. For his acrobatics in the outfield, Pillar stands a good chance of unseating Adam Jones for the Gold Glove in centerfield.
Pillar is incredibly fun to watch in the outfield, but if you view him as all glove, no stick, you are missing the big picture. Kevin Pillar is an integral part of making the potent Blue Jays offense tick. In Toronto’s crucial Game 4 victory over the Texas Rangers, Pillar picked up his first postseason home run in the second inning, drove in another run in the third inning when the Blue Jays blew the game open, and wrapped up the Toronto scoring with another RBI single in the seventh inning. All told, Pillar racked up three hits and three RBI out of the eight-hole in the Blue Jays lineup and raised his postseason batting average to .412.
This has been a nice carryover from the regular season, Pillar’s first full season with the Blue Jays. After playing in only 53 games in 2014, the 26-year-old, former 32nd round draft pick took part in 159 games this year and produced a .278/.314/.399 line with 45 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases. Not a one-trick pony at the plate, Pillar batted exactly .278 against both left-handers and right-handers. Pillar batted mostly out of the eighth spot in the order, and served as an effective bridge to the top of the order. He struck out only 85 times in 628 plate appearances, and posted 2.8 oWAR to go with 2.8 dWAR. A Major League lineup needs production from all spots in the order to produce at historic levels as the Blue Jays did all year, and Pillar’s production is a much-overlooked part of the offensive juggernaut that plated 127 more runs than its closest competitor.
On a team with stars like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Edwin Encarnacion, a grinder like Pillar is naturally going to get overlooked. His offense will be even more overlooked when he becomes known primarily for his highlight reel catches. Don’t let that cloud the bigger picture. Kevin Pillar is a complete player, just as capable when it comes to hitting a double as he is at preventing one.