Kevin Pillar is becoming known by baseball pundits around the country as the Toronto Blue Jays high-flying, leaping, catchall outfielder who continues to amaze with his miracle catches.
While seeing him make these dazzling catches, they are not as shocking as they used to be although baseball fans still enjoy seeing him glide through the air to grab a seemingly impossible ball.
On Tuesday night, the Blue Jays lost but Pillar did not fail to impress with his leap at the wall. On offense, he is batting .258 for the season, which is not impressive, especially given that his home park is hitter friendly.
However, Pillar gives his team value running the bases and of course roaming the outfield. At times, players can make dramatic and even game-saving catches, but are not otherwise considered standout defenders.
In the case of Pillar, he not only shows moments of outright spectacular performances, but he is able to grade out as one of baseball’s most valuable players on defense.
The stats will often prove this. The defensive statistic Def is the runs saved by a player over and above that of an average defensive player, with the number being adjusted to reflect the difficulty of each position.
For instance, playing shortstop is more difficult that say first base, while center field often has many plays that are more challenging than does left field.
With all metrics for defense, the measure is not a perfect science particularly when dealing with samples of three or fewer seasons. Nevertheless, the top rated defender in the Def category thus far in 2016 is Pillar in center field for Toronto at 16.4. He is followed by shortstop Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants and Adam Eaton the Chicago White Sox right fielder.
Players in the top ten of that stat are considered some of the top defensive players in baseball. Last season, Pillar was eighth in the stat for all players in baseball, and is proving this season that he is one of the top 5 in MLB.
The Blue Jays have turned their season around and now trail the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles by just 2 games. Pillar is a big part of that turnaround with his inning saving and game saving defensive plays that do not score runs, but certainly save them.