Villar’s Pick-Offs

Earlier this year, I wrote about Jonathan Villar’s horrendous baserunning in 2016. He posted a Ground Advancement Run (GAR) of -3.57, which was fifth worst in the bigs behind Yadier Molina, Dioner Navarro, Dustin Pedroia and Yasmani Grandal. Four of them are catchers, and the other is a middle infielder on the wrong side of thirty.

Contrastingly, Villar had a Stolen Base Run (SBR) of 1.53, 10th highest in the league. He was the only player to meet both of those requirements in 2016 and only the 12th in big league history. Additionally, I created a statistic that tracked outs on bases, pick-offs, and caught stealing against Baseball Prospectus Total Baserunning Opportunities. Villar ended with a out on base percentage (OOB%) of 15.8. That means, he recorded an out 16 percent of the time he was given a base running opportunity.

Villar has shown improvement in 2017. Entering Wednesday night, he has not recorded a single out on base. After having 16 last year, the highest amount from any player in the top 20 of stolen base attempts, that’s exceptionally impressive.

However, his OOB percentage remains a stalwart 15.4. How could this be? Pickoffs.

Villar has been picked off five times this year. Last year, he was only picked off six times. He’s on a record pace; in fact, he could actually shatter a record.

In the past 30 years, there have only been 9 players picked off double digit times in a season. And, in the past decade, nobody has done it.

Team Year Player # Picked Off SB Opps
White Sox 2005 Scott Podsednik 10 237
Mets 1999 Rickey Henderson 10 272
Tigers 1997 Brian Hunter 10 289
Rangers 1995 Otis Nixon 11 293
White Sox 1990 Lane Johnson 11 204
Astros 1990 Eric Yelding 13 192
Athletics 1990 Rickey Henderson 10 239
Mariners 1987 Harold Reynolds 10 189
Cardinals 1987 Vince Coleman 12 245


The reason I used Stolen Base Opportunities, which measured how many times a runner was a lead runner at first or second, instead of total opportunities is because these are the situations in which a pitcher would attempt to pick off a runner.

Villar has only had 52 total stolen base opportunities this season. That means, he’s been picked off 9.6 percent of the time he’s been a lead runner. Erick Yelding, who was picked off a mind-boggling 13 times, had a percentage of 6.7.

If one were to quadruple Villar’s opportunities (208) to provide similar opporunities to Yelding, he would end the year with 20 picked offs. If one were to give Villar the same amount of opportunities he had last year, 252, he’d be near 25 picked offs.

Individually, these numbers are heart-wrenching. But, even collectively, Villar’s numbers would make a manager loose plenty of sleep at night. Through 2017, here are the team picked off numbers.

AL Team Picked Off NL Team Picked Off
Yankees 4 Nationals 2
Orioles 0 Mets 3
Red Sox 4 Braves 3
Rays 1 Phillies 3
Jays 4 Marlins 1
Twins 2 Cardinals 7
Indians 2 Brewers 7
Tigers 2 Cubs 5
White Sox 3 Reds 4
Royals 3 Pirates 7
Astros 5 Rockies 5
Angles 4 Diamondbacks 6
Rangers 4 Dodgers 1
Mariners 3 Giants 2
Athletics 3 Padres 5

Only 7 of the 29 teams that aren’t the Brewers have been collectively picked off 5 or more times.

Further, only two other individual players, Jose Altuve and Charlie Blackmon, have been picked off more than twice this season. Here are the leaders:

Player Picked Off
Jon Villar 5
Jose Altuve 3
Charlie Blackmon 3
11 different players 2

Somehow, the news gets worse.

I combed through all of his box scores in which he reached base and I found a note in the scorecard on April 20th against the Cardinals. Apparently, Carlos Martinez had Villar at first base, but an error by Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter allowed Villar to get back in safely and eventually advance to second base. In the box score, it was reported as a pickoff, but in the overall count it’s disallowed due to him getting back safely.

Technically, Villar’s been picked off 6 times. In total, he’s been in stolen base position at first base 34 times and been picked off 5 times. That’s 14.7 percent of the time. At second base, he’s been in position 18 times and picked off once. That’s 5.5 percent.

Over the past 30 years, only 118 players have been picked off 6 times in a full season. Villar has done that in 52 opportunities, and it’s only the month of May! In actuality, he reached number six on May 9th. It took him just 37 calendar days and 33 baseball games to reach a number only 118 players over the past 30 years have reached.

In a full season, the least amount of opportunities needed to reach 6 or more picked offs was 140 by Alex Sanchez of the Brewers in 2002.


May 20th
May 29th
June 1st
June 8th
June 20th
June 23rd
June 24th
June 26th
July 16th
August 11th
August 28th
September 2nd
September 21st

Since we’re really focused on the record, we’ll go back to Yelding quickly. Here is his Pickoff Log

Villar has been picked off 6 times (technically 5) before Yielding was picked off a single time in his record setting (in the last 30 years) season. But, Yelding did have 7 picked offs from May 29th to June 24th so that takes the edge off the insanity of Villar’s opening month. But, the record is very much obtainable for Villar based off his start to the season.

There is some good news for Villar: In Villar’s first 15 stolen base opportunities, he was picked off 4 times. Since then he’s settled down with only two picked offs in his last 38 stolen base opportunities.

But, Villar’s biggest break between pickoffs is only 22 Stolen base opportunities. Yelding had a month and a half at the start of the season and almost a month between July and August.

The good news is only minimal. However, if you consider the good news Villar setting the record, then that evidence is fantastic. I will finish with actual good news. Despite Villar, the 2017 Brewers have been a marginally better base running team.

2016 Brewers

Total baserunning Opportunities 1516
Outs on Base 65
Pickoffs 17
Caught Stealing 56
Out on Base Percentage 9%


2017 Brewers

Total Baserunning Oppurtunities 349
Outs on Base 7
Pickoffs 7
Caught Stealing 14
Out on Base Percentage 8%

Most importantly, the Brewers’ percentage of outs on base has reduced from 4.3 percent to 2 percent. Overall, they’ve been much more disciplined and hopefully we get to see a better Brewers team and a record set by Villar in the same season.

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1 comment on “Villar’s Pick-Offs”

Pete McKane

Great article. My sense is that Villar doesn’t play under control.

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