Counsell defends Villar's aggressiveness

With baserunning under microscope, Brewers shortstop enjoys success after reaching 4 times Friday

May 28th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- If one criticizes Jonathan Villar's bad outcomes on the bases, Brewers manager Craig Counsell was arguing once again Friday afternoon, one must equally praise the good ones. A few hours later, Villar delivered a few more doses of good.

Villar reached safely four times, matched his season high with three hits, scored a pair of runs and drove in two more in Milwaukee's 9-5 win over the Reds at Miller Park. He extended his on-base streak to 12 consecutive home games, and, yes, he nearly made another notable out at third base.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Villar and other #ASGWorthy players

This time, instant replay provided an escape. Villar, who had walked in the first inning and stole second base, was initially called out trying to swipe third. Counsell challenged, the call was reversed, and Villar's Major League-leading 17th stolen base led directly to a run on Jonathan Lucroy's sacrifice fly.

"This is the place where you guys like to point out the outs that he made, but you guys don't talk about when he stole second base to win the game on Wednesday night," Counsell said earlier in the day, referring to a Brewers win in Atlanta two days earlier. "If you're going to talk about the outs, tell me when he's winning games for us, too."

Villar doubled home the go-ahead run in the Brewers' four-run fourth inning, and added insurance when he narrowly scored from second base on Hernan Perez's single for a 5-3 Brewers lead.

"I feel he's very underrated right now," veteran infielder Aaron Hill said. "I think he's coming into his own and finding out he can be a great player. It's going to be fun to see what he becomes."

It is an open question: What will Villar become? He just turned 25, and is in the midst of his first season as a full-time starter.

His numbers are a mix of good and bad. Villar leads the Majors in steals after pulling ahead of Houston's Jose Altuve on Friday, but is tied for the second-most times caught stealing, with six. Twice, he's been caught stealing third base.

The same goes for other baserunning plays. Entering Friday, Villar had taken an extra base -- gone first to third on a single, for example -- 69 percent of the time, tops on the team. He was tied with Lucroy with seven "bases taken" on fly balls, wild pitches and passed balls.

But he also led the way in outs on the bases (not counting unsuccessful steals), with six, including five outs at third base and one at home. Chris Carter and Domingo Santana were the only other Brewers to make an out at third base, with one apiece.

"There are going to be more mistakes on the bases, more outs on the bases, but he's also the guy who is forcing the issue on the bases," Counsell said. "The guy that forces the issue is the guy that's going to make some outs sometimes. We don't want to see mistakes, we'll keep trying to improve on the mistakes, but I think Jonny is doing things on the field and experiencing a lot on the field that's making him a better player."

"He's had some good plays and some bad ones," Lucroy said. "I'm not perfect, either, on the bases. Hopefully we all keep improving."