DETROIT - Jonathan Villar was born to run. Which also means it’s in his blood to get thrown out on certain occasions. That’s the risk he takes.
The Orioles can’t tame him. It’s more like they’re trying to educate him on the proper times to be aggressive and to show some restraint.
Make smart decisions, but don’t become timid.
A recent check of baserunning WARs - and yes, such a thing exists - found Villar tied with the Mariners’ Mallex Smith for best in the majors at 0.9. He’s stolen 35 bases and is 19-for-21 since July 2.
“I think he’s picking his spots better,” manager Brandon Hyde said of Villar, who’s been caught stealing eight times this season and picked off three, one fewer than Smith.
“I think there were times the first half when he just ran to run and now I feel like he’s done a better job of understanding the situation of the game and when to push the envelope on the bases. We have a long way to go when it comes to that as a club. That’s something we struggled with this year a lot and talked about a lot and work on a lot, but it’s just something we have to get a lot better at is baserunning. Having these guys develop some baserunning instincts. Understand scoreboard, understanding outs, where defenses are playing behind you.
“All that kind of stuff we just have to really improve on going into next year.”
The accolades gradually build for Villar over the course of the summer.
He left Detroit as only the fourth Orioles player to total 30 stolen bases and 100 runs scored in the same season. Brian Roberts did it in 2007-2009, Brady Anderson in 1992 and 1999 and Al Bumbry in 1980.
“You look at his body of work over the course of this year, he’s putting up some really good numbers with the power, the speed, hitting for a high average,” Hyde said. “He’s played multiple positions in the infield, both middle spots.”
Villar already joined the 20 homer/20 steal club, becoming the sixth different Orioles player to gain entrance. It’s happened eight times in club history.
“I don’t think it gets talked about enough,” Hyde said. “Even Trey Mancini, the year these guys have had. We’re not in the top half in runs scored and for these guys to be scoring the amount of runs that they do is really, really impressive.
“If they were on a team that scored 100-and-something more runs for the year, they’d have 110-115 runs scored and more RBIs. So for doing what they’ve done on a team that has struggled for the most part for the entire year, it’s really, really impressive.”
Villar tripled yesterday and scored on Austin Hays’ single in a 5-2 loss to the Tigers.
Only five players in the majors this season have appeared in every game and Villar is one of them. He’s joined by the Royals’ Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler, the Athletics’ Marcus Semien and the Marlins’ Starlin Castro.
Jonathan Schoop is the last Oriole to run the table in 2016.
Orioles players have appeared in at least 160 games four times since 2015: Schoop in 2016 and 2017 (160), and Manny Machado (162) and Chris Davis (160) in 2015.
Can Villar make it to 162 with only 12 games remaining?
He’d like to do it. Hyde isn’t offering any promises, but it seems likely to happen.
“I’m going to continue talking to him,” Hyde said. “If he needs a day, then I’ll give it to him. But he’s playing with great energy and he’s playing hard. He doesn’t want to come out and he’s playing really well, so it’s going to be day-to-day. But I’m not predicting anything. I’m just kind of going with the flow on that.”
When the winner of the Most Valuable Oriole award is announced later this week, Villar obviously will be included among the players receiving votes. I’m not expecting him to finish ahead of Mancini, but he’s in the discussion. Could be the top two.
Others who deserve consideration include pitcher John Means and infielder Hanser Alberto. The media covering the team was allowed to choose three players, with points awarded for first, second and third place.
Give me your ballots.