Detroit Tigers Free Agent Review: Kevin Pillar

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The Detroit Tigers by adding Kevin Pillar would give the outfield a much needed veteran presence.

For me, when I think of Kevin Pillar, I think of the web gems he has made throughout his career and I’m sure Detroit Tigers may feel the same way. Highlight and highlight, Pillar has made some amazing catches including this gem against Nick Castellanos two years ago in Toronto.

Last season, Pillar signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox for $4.25 million dollars. He provided to be a solid value, hitting .288/.336/.462 with 6 home runs and wRC+ of 106, good for an fWAR of 1.1 or if you prefer, a bWAR of 0.7.

However, if you are a stickler of numbers, the defensive value in terms of analytical numbers shows according to FanGraphs, Pillar earned a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of -4 but if you look at the rest of the Tigers outfield, Jorge Bonifacio was a -3 and JaCoby Jones, Harold Castro and Daz Cameron were all -1.  Consider Bonifacio’s offense numbers, I can live with -3 because Pillar can make the basic plays.

While he fits the profile of most Tigers on the roster with a high strikeout rate and low walk rate, he was below the league average for strikeout rates with an 18.4% (league average was around 21.8%) and for his career, strikes out at around 15.1% clip. Could be from a smaller sample size but his hard hit% was up from his career average of 36.5%.

The versatility definitely helps the Tigers.  He can play all three outfield positions, hits lefties at a slightly higher clip (.286/.320/.464) versus righties, (.253/.290/.387) but has more home runs (54) against right-handed pitching.

But the biggest number to take away from all of this is how he does against breaking ball pitches compared to a Tigers outfielder counterpart, Victor Reyes. Reyes hit .210 against them in 2020 while Pillar hit .298. Granted, Reyes showed improvement from 2019 but having Pillar out there who is a good clubhouse leader by all accounts, could help out the Tigers’ outfield for a one-year deal until they figure out who rises among the minor leaguers or if they swing and miss on George Springer. 

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