The recipe for winning in the playoffs really shouldn’t be that complicated. You want your good players to do well, and you want the rest of your players to do well enough. It shouldn’t take any more than that, so, for the Rangers, they came into the ALDS against the Blue Jays hoping to lean on Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, which is totally fine. Those are two outstanding pitchers; you expect them to have outstanding games. Hamels, yesterday, allowed seven runs, and couldn’t get out of the fourth. Darvish, today, allowed five runs, and couldn’t get into the sixth. Now the Rangers are probably screwed. What do you do? They just got baseballed.
Darvish’s problem was that he allowed four homers. And I’m not going to try to defend him — you have to work pretty hard to give up four homers. But we should at least be able to excuse him for one of them. Behold Kevin Pillar doubling what was, in the moment, a one-run lead. I’d argue that Pillar might’ve done a worse job of executing here than even Darvish did. No, that sounds stupid, but, you know what I mean. What is this!
Literally just the other day, Pillar knocked a double against a pitch that was similarly high, but that double could’ve been caught, and at least the pitch was somewhere over the plate. Pillar went up and Pillar went in to take Darvish yard, and I just honestly don’t know what you’re supposed to do with this. This isn’t the pitch that Darvish wanted to throw, but it should’ve just put him behind 3-1 in the count, not 3-1 on the scoreboard.
Here’s a plot of all the 2016 home runs, with data borrowed from Baseball Savant. I put righty and lefty home runs on the same scale, such that pitches on the left are inside, and pitches on the right are outside. You can easily see here that Pillar’s home run is exceptional, relative to the pack.
Maybe it’s not the single most exceptional home run. Maybe it is? I don’t know. But it’s out there. It’s above most of the group, and it’s to the left of most of the group, and it’s both of those things at the same time, which makes it bizarre. It doesn’t reflect well on Pillar that he swung at this pitch in the first place while ahead in the count. It’s probably no mystery why Pillar is the owner of a career 85 wRC+. But on the other hand, maybe that is a mystery, because if Pillar can go yard against a pitch like this, what’s to stop him from going yard against almost literally anything?
I am a professional baseball analyst, writing for a website founded upon baseball analysis. So often, around this time of year, my analysis comes down to a “welp.” Pillar put a…good? swing on the ball. I don’t even know, man. But it sure was a dinger, all right.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.
AND it was his first home run since the middle of June. Over 300 PA.