Plate discipline has become obscenely important to me over the last few years.
Nothing makes or breaks a team’s success like patience at the dish. The Royals have started the year winning series and games they weren’t supposed to win. The thing I find most pleasing about the Royals’ early success is their ability (for the most part) to wait on pitches they want to hit. And if they can’t find one they want to hit, they’ll gladly take a free pass to first. (They’re 6th in the MLB in walks so far this season)
Watching Billy Butler at the plate over the past few years has been one of my favorite things to do. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve voiced my opinions from the camp of doubters in the past. I questioned whether he would ever really be a power-hitting first baseman. Whether he would ever hit the amount of homers that a guy who patrols the right side of the infield is generally “supposed” to have.
Well guess what I’ve decided?
I don’t care that the home runs aren’t there.
The guy can hit. He’s shown us that. He doesn’t strike out very much either. He waits for the pitches he wants. If you look at first baseman over the past 2 years in the Majors who have played over 250 games in that timespan, you’ll find Billy Butler at the top in many important categories. He ranks 6th in OBP (.375), 4th in batting average (.309), 4th in LEAST amount of strikeouts (181), 2nd in hits (372) and 1st in doubles hit (96).
Every time Billy steps to the plate, I expect him to be on base soon after. He has a line of .352/.477/.493/.970 through 20 games and has 16 walks to his name with only 7 strikeouts. Even when he’s down 0-2 in a count, somehow I still feel like he’s in control of the situation. That’s a luxurious feeling to have for one of your players.
Billy, you don’t have to hit 50 home runs to make me happy. I’m pretty content with you slapping doubles and getting on base.
The guy has exceeded everyone’s expectations so far this season. Through 19 games the guy has a .361/.404/.542/.947 line. I was very surprised by Yost’s decision to bat Gordo 3rd in the lineup at the beginning of the year but that choice has more than paid off. The guy has been raking. However, I’d like to point out one fact that I think has helped catapult Gordon to his early season success.
The steady-eyed Billy Butler bats behind him.
Before you cry “Party Foul!”, let me explain. In no way am I trying to belittle the production that Alex has shown so far this season. The guy is doing and will (hopefully) continue doing wonders with his bat. But let’s be honest here, having the protection of Billy Butler behind you in the lineup is definitely not going to hurt your chances for success.
It’s not just Billy though. For the most part, all of the Royals are looking fairly patient and dangerous at the plate through these first 20 games. For crying out loud, even Jeff Franceour, who is not really known for taking pitches (to put it mildly) is on pace to have 48.6 walks this season. That would be a career high for him. Granted, there’s a lot of season left to play, but it still would be the greatest amount of patience he’s ever shown as a batter (which as far as major league hitters are concerned, would still be severely lacking). Kila Ka’aihue, who has gotten a lot of grief over the last few weeks for his 21 strikeouts in 64 at-bats, is tied for 2nd on the team with 10 walks. Even with his initial struggles, you can’t sit here and tell me he doesn’t at least have a modicum of patience at the plate. Don’t write him off just yet.
To win games you have to get on base. Taking pitches and getting into hitter’s counts is essential. You don’t have to take a hack at the first pitch a guy throws you. Being patient is going to get you opportunities to put the ball in play or get walked, both of which lead to good things.
If the Royals continue to wait on pitches….they’ll continue to be successful.