The fragility of success in the batter’s box is such that even after a strong start to the 2017 season carried well into May, all it took was one cold spell for Kevin Pillar to stop trusting what he was doing and scramble to adjust. The Toronto Blue Jays centre-fielder remembers not feeling quite right during a two-game series in Milwaukee, in which he went 2-for-10, and letting things spiral into a 1-for-25 stretch over the next seven games that followed. It was then the promising opening that hinted at a major jump forward unravelled, leading to an extended down period being eased now by a late-season recovery. And as he readies to close the book on his third full season in the big leagues, the 28-year-old believes the experience will pay off for him next year. “I struggled for a series, I hit the panic button a little bit and wanted to go back and make some changes when really, the only thing that was changing was the way guys were pitching me,” Pillar says in the visitors’ dugout at Fenway Park. “I look back on that and it’s something I shouldn’t have done. I should have stayed with the process and really been a little more disciplined at the plate and changed the pitches I was looking for. But I got caught up in results and I lost sight of the process. Fast forward to now, I’ve made some changes that I think are going to help me moving forward so I can’t be completely upset about wanting to make changes. I think it led me to some good things.” Pillar was doing good things in April and May after arriving at spring training determined to take a definitive plan to the plate, be more selective and disciplined in what he swings at, and stick to that approach regardless of the results. The numbers validated his changes, as through his first 43 games, he slashed .306/.361/.491 with 12 doubles, six homers and 14 walks. The underlying signs were good, too, as his chase rate on pitches outside of the strike zone was down to 31.4 per cent, a six per cent improvement over last year. But when the league adjusted, Pillar overcompensated.
Blue Jays’ Pillar content with lessons learned in up-and-down season
Sportsnet | Sep 28