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Tampa Bay Rays: Kevin Kiermaier is doing everything better in 2019

By Austin Reimann
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - JULY 01: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays is celebrtaes after hitting a three run home run in the sixth inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field on July 01, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - JULY 01: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays is celebrtaes after hitting a three run home run in the sixth inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field on July 01, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Kevin Kiermaier has been a force at the plate for the Tampa Bay Rays and he is doing it by making louder contact, hitting with runners in scoring position, and wreaking havoc on the bases.

The all-star break is approaching and Kevin Kiermaier is on pace for a career year in more ways than one. Kiermaier’s 2015 campaign in which he amassed 7.5 bWAR and placed 17th in the MVP race is still his best season to date, but he is poised to blow past some of those offensive numbers this season.

Staying healthy has been key for the platinum glove defender, who is on pace to play more than 105 games for the first time since 2016. KK has played in 76 of the Rays‘ 86 games and has proven to be just as valuable at the plate as he is in the field. Potentially on track for his first 20/20 season, Kiermaier has seemed to finally turn the corner at the plate.

At first glance his numbers may underwhelm, but his .244 average doesn’t do the center fielder justice. He has driven in the fourth most runs (39 RBI), stole the most bases (14) and hit the most triples (6), played the third most games (76), and has amassed the third most bWAR (2.3) among Rays players this season.

He is striking out less, making louder contact, and barreling more balls up this season compared to last. He is making more contact on pitches in the zone and hitting fastballs, breaking balls, and off- speed pitches for better averages across the board.

The breakdown:

K% (2018//2019)

  • 24.8% // 21.6 %
  • MLB Avg: 31.4%

Hard Hit %

  • 29.0% // 36.6%
  • MLB Avg: 31.4%

Barrel %

  • 4.5% // 6.8%
  • MLB Avg: 4.4%

Zone Contact %

  • 77.8% // 86.6%
  • MLB Avg: 83.0%

AVG vs Fastball

  • .243 // .260

AVG vs Breaking Balls

  • .202 // .250

AVG vs Offspeed

  • .158 // .217

The biggest change at the plate though has been his production with runners in scoring position. With the all-star break approaching, Kiermaier is on pace to double his previous career high RBI total of 40 (2015).

Take a look at his AVG with RISP over his career:

2014: .149

2015: .297

2016: .274

2017: .206

2018: .174

2019: .373

His ability to drive runners in this season has been huge for a team, that has struggled at times to drive runs across the plate. Austin Meadows has the next best average with RISP, hitting .346.

Kiermaier–a player largely defined by his defensive prowess–is on pace to slug 20 bombs, steal 30 bases, and drive in 80 runs. Combine that production with his ability in centerfield and you are looking at one heck of a ballplayer, one that Rays fans have been waiting for since 2015.

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Next. Snell's 2019: A real head scratcher. dark

Provided that he can stay healthy, Kiermaier is indeed on pace for a career year at the plate and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the Rays are in a dog fight for AL East supremacy.

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