Billy Butler, All-Star?


Sometimes we lose track of what we do have when we spend all our time looking forward to what we will have. This happens in all aspects of life and unfortunately, when it comes to being a Royals fan, it pretty much comes with the territory when looking to the upcoming seasons because we’re always forced to look for what might be, could be, someday.

There’s been a heavy dose of the “will bes” this off season with the trades of Zack Greinke and David DeJesus, and how Royals fans really shouldn’t be all that concerned because of what is coming behind then in The System. The loss of Greinke, while it may sting this year, doesn’t really matter all that much because there are at least four “can’t miss” prospects coming to take his place that are just as good, if not better. It’s the great part about a rebuilding process, the team is always just *this* close.

That sentiment that surrounded Greinke can almost be applied to the curious case of Billy Butler and how he’s regarded within the Royals community. No, not with the misplaced vitriol that was directed at the former Royals ace, but with the same sort of indifference to what his considerable skills are, especially to this organization.

The flaws are what get pointed out the most. On the message boards, on the Facebook pages, Royals fans only seem to want to mention the negative parts about Butler’s game. The double plays he grounds into, his lack of, um, foot speed, his limited defensive ability, and his lack of power are what get talked about before the fact that he may just be the most complete Royals hitter since Mike Sweeney. The good Mike Sweeney. That guy last showed up eight years ago.

Don’t let the title fool you however, I’m not saying Butler is an All-Star American League first baseman. Well maybe a little. At first you would think there is no way Butler could be considered one of the top first baseman in his own division, let alone the entire American League. But there is a way.

Over the past two full seasons Butler ranks sixth in WAR (6.1) among AL first basemen, and that’s just a touch behind Paul Konerko’s 6.7. You could say that number should be higher if it weren’t for Butler’s rather terrible defense, but taking one look at the other one-baggers on the list, and their defense isn’t helping them any, either.

From a pure offensive standpoint – that’s all the All-Star voting is really based on anyway; that and how much attention ESPN gives your team – Butler measures up no lower than fifth in both wOBA (.371) and wRC+ (125), and Miguel Cabrera, Kendry(s) Morales* and he are the only ones still on the short side of 30 years old.

*not included in the rankings are Morales and Justin Morneau because they both missed most of last season with injuries. I’m not debating Morneau, he’s better. Morales however, were he to be included in the statistical ranking, I would still have a tough time definitively putting him ahead of Butler even though his isolated power and defense are far superior. Morales’ one “great” year at 26 years old, for me, isn’t enough of a sample size to be considered a better measure than Butler’s two good years at 23 and 24.

Yeah, there’s a hill to climb for Butler to be an All-Star, but it’s not impossible. While most on the list are either exiting their prime, out of their prime, or coming back from injury, Butler enters his age 25 season carrying 2 ½ years of solid-to-good performance with all his peripherals going in the right directions.

His stiffest competition may very well end up being Adrian Gonzalez and the voters for Mark Teixeria. Morales may not be ready to start the season. Morneau may not either although he just started playing games again. Konerko is old, Derrick Lee is old, and Daric Barton will never get the support from the mainstream media because they’re all out to find any way possible to prove Billy Beane wrong.

So, is Billy Butler an All-Star?

I think I’m answering “yes”. But this is going to be a rough year, and I do need something to believe in.

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  • benjammin

    Outside of representing KC as its mandatory player or multiple injury replacement, its unlikely Butler is an all-star level player. He is a DH type with a .450ish slugging and not much else. He fits a role on this team and many others w/ his solid avg. obp and fairly low SO rate but he is imminently replaceable. If Kila hits well this season, and we all think he will, his value diminishes greatly. Almost every team in baseball has a 1b option at least as appealing or a top prospect close to the majors. You can always move a disappointing fielder with a solid bat to 1B….If billy can take a big step forward and get his slg % into the .520-540 range, everything changes.

    • ed kranepool

      These sentiments capture to a tee what Mr. Scobee was expressing in his article. Butler gets very little respect, inspite of the fact that he is an elite RH hitter. This guy is a double machine. The only reason he won’t hit 50 doubles this year is because some of those doubles will be HRs.

      Butler is just now entering his prime years. I think he’s going to challenge for the batting title this year and will have over 120 RBIs.

  • Kevin Scobee

    I wouldn’t necessarily consider a .388 OBP “solid-average”, nor is he “imminently replaceable. The guy finished 7th last year in the AL in OBP and 14th in wOBA at 24 years old. I may be overrating what I consider an ascending player, but you’re underrating him a heckuva lot more.

  • Eric

    On a slightly different subject, what would it take for a Royals player to become popular enough to be voted in to start the All Star game? Morneau seems to be a favorite among the fans, but he can hit 35 home runs.

    • Kevin Scobee

      Oh man, who knows. Wasn’t Jermaine Dye the last one and that was in the midst of an 8-0 start with something like 9 comebacks wins int he first 20 games? Probably a string of crazy/fluky occurrences to get them attention from the national media.

      • http://kingsofkauffman.com Michael Engel

        Dye was the last voted Royal into the All-Star game in 2000. He’d hit 21 homers through July 9. That was the year the Royals had a lot of what are now known as walk-off wins – I remember celebrating many of them while in the dorms as my roommate was also a Royals fan and we’d listen to Denny “What is going on?” Matthews call the victories.

        They were 8-3 in their first 11 games though. In 2003, they started 13-0 I think it was…might be what you’re thinking of Kevin.

        • Kevin Scobee

          I forget the circumstances that surrounded Dye, but didn’t he have a string of games with a bunch of great defensive plays to start the season? (And by great for Dye I mean too slow to move and mis-reading fly balls so he had to dive to make the play, making it look difficult.) And everything just sort of steam-rolled for him from there?

    • ed kranepool

      What will it take? Two words: Eric Hosmer.

      • Eric

        That is a better answer than “trade them to the Yankees so they can get voted in.”

        Anyway, I think it probably helps if they have been hyped a lot even before they made it to the majors. If I recall, Dye was a highly rated prospect before he came to the Royals.