Tampa Bay Rays: Reality of Kevin Kiermaier’s Bat
By Seth Carter
The Tampa Bay Rays possess a generational-talent in centerfield. While many wish he could show more with his bat, is it good enough? In what ballparks and situations does he excel? We take a look.
We recently documented Tampa Bay Rays’ defensive wizard, Kevin Kiermaier‘s excellence in centerfield in a comparison article with Jackie Bradley Jr.
You can read that article in the link below. Now we take a look at his bat. We all wish for more out of Kiermaier’s bat, but has the criticism gotten a little out of hand recently?
Run Save = Run Earned?
Since 2014, only one player has more defensive runs saved than Kevin Kiermair. That player is Andrelton Simmons and he has 138 defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs.
In that same time, Kevin Kiermaier has 117 defensive runs saved in 2,132.1 fewer innings than Simmons.
Of Players with at least 4,500 innings since 2014, Kiermaier is third in all of baseball in UZR/150. That is total zone rating averaged out over 150 games. No matter how you look at it, he’s been one of the absolute best defensive players in the game since he stepped foot on the field since he put on the Rays’ uniform.
The knock on our beloved Kiermaier is his bat. Today we look at situations he has excelled in and entertain the notion that his hitting is not all that bad.
Below Average Bat?
In his career, Kiermaier has slashed .249/.306/.416 for the Rays.
Let’s look at some of the details.
- 2014 – In his first full year in the big leagues, Kiermaier slashed .263/.315/.450 with an OPS+ of 117.
- 2017 – Kiermaier again had an above-average season with the bat, posting an OPS+ of 113 and slashing .276.338/.450
- Prior to the past two seasons, his lowest OPS+ was 99, meaning he was, by definition, an above-average hitter. The past two seasons have changed that narrative as he posted OPS+ of 79 and 80, respectively.
- Still, for his career, he’s sitting at a 98 OPS+, which is just about average.
- Leading off a game – .279/.322/.468
- Middle of the Lineup (3-5) – .323 total average with respective SLG%’s of .489, .500, and .681. Keep in mind, this is a total of 99 at-bats.
- First Pitch – He has an .885 OPS on the first pitch of an at-bat.
- Low-Leverage Situations – Some feel that the perception of KK is he is clutch. The stats don’t back up that assertion. He actually excels in low-leverage situations with a .755 OPS, compared to his .651 in high-leverage spots. When games are late and close he’s only hitting .225/.308/.351
- Fenway- You gotta love it! In Fenway, Kiermaier is tearing up the Red Sox with a .290/.333/.497 slash line.
- Yankee Stadium – In 40 career games in Yankee Stadium he has a .470 career slugging percentage.
Since 2014, Kiermaier has a wRC+ of 97. That’s pretty close to average over that time. If you aren’t familiar, wRC+ is a weighted average for how many runs a player creates. It’s designed so that a score of 100 equals the average.
Since Kiermaier has entered the league, he is three points south of average in runs created, and 117 above average in defensive runs saved.
You do the math.
Will he bring his OPS+ back over 100 in 2020? Does he deserve to be the second-highest paid player on the team?