Toronto Blue Jays: Does it Matter Who the Leadoff Hitter is?


Kevin Pillar will start the season as leadoff hitter, but does it really matter who the Toronto Blue Jays place at the top of their batting order?

As per an earlier articleKevin Pillar will be the leadoff hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. Or at least he has first crack at making the job his.

Pillar’s leadoff home run Friday in Montreal against Boston proved it’s his job to lose. Of course, home runs aren’t really supposed to come from the leadoff hitter.

However, all teams will gladly take a home run over a slap-single and a stolen base… even if their job is technically to set the table, not clear it. No one’s complaining though if he does.

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Perhaps this promotion of Pillar to leadoff hitter is much ado about nothing though, since the Blue Jays lineup is loaded and will win most games via the middle of the lineup. Leadoff hitter– does it really matter who does it?

It won’t if the middle of the lineup kills it like last year. But it could, if the table isn’t adequately set and runners are not aboard for the big guns.

Additional reasoning that leadoff could mean nothing– or at least a negligible difference compared to last year’s huge offensive renaissance– is that the order is intact. Other than Ben Revere’s departure, it’s almost the same throughout.

For Pillar, the selection for leadoff hitter, he hits right in front of buddy Ryan Goins. Last year, Pillar hit eighth mostly, again, right beside Goins in the order (ninth) and that familiarity should generate positive results– similar, anyway.

Last year: 8 Pillar, 9 Goins. This year: Goins 9, Pillar 1. There’s no real difference or evidence to say production shouldn’t be the same for the Jays as a whole as last season– if not greater.

Toronto Blue Jays
Mar 22, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA;Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) hits a two run RBI single during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

How could it be greater? Well, in theory, it actually should be. There are two major reasons and a minor one it should be an even bigger offensive push this year than last.

Supporting the idea of more runs, this year the Jays should have a full season with Troy Tulowitzki. Although oft-injured, Tulo appears to be healthy this year and is poised for a bigger year.

Tulowitzki is now more familiar with Toronto – the city and the club – after he was initially shocked by the trade from Colorado during last season. In fact, being more comfortable could lead to a major increase.

The minor rationale for an increase again has to do with Tulowitzki, with the Jays trying a real grass infield at Rogers Centre (Skydome) this season. A grass infield rather than an artificial turf field should mean less wear and tear on infielders.

In addition, less wear and tear should mean slightly less rest is needed. So improved health on infielders and base runners should mean good things for the Jays as they use this field more than anyone (obviously, for half their games).

Also, perhaps what should be the biggest reason for an offensive improvement (as crazy as “improving” sounds after such an amazing season in 2015) is that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both in contract years. Since the Jays’ brass decided not to re-sign them, the hope (I’m speculating) is both hitters will be ALL-IN for this season.

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They have even more incentive to produce this season, given they are slated to become free agents this offseason. This means their production should be highest– if they want a huge payday, which by all indications, they do.

Not signing the aging stars to extensions this offseason is a gamble. But if they win the gamble, the Jays could win everything.

By the same token, Toronto could lose Bautista and Encarnacion for nothing. No longer, “In AA, we trust…” Now it’s this new regime.

Hopefully the front office has a plan for every situation– or they’re gonna have some angry fans. But for this year at least, it likely doesn’t matter who hits first… the offense looks set.

Next: 5 storylines for the Blue Jays in 2016

The Jays open their season Sunday, April 3rd at 4 PM in St. Petersburg, Florida where they take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day. Game 1/162. Hopefully this season, like the last, that number is greater than 162… like, let’s say between five and eight games longer than last season.