Don't Put Billy In A Corner

A little house-cleaning before we get started.

In honor of Father’s Day the staff at KoK wanted to do something a bit different, and special, for our loyal readers. If you check out the “Contest” tab at the top, or click here, you’ll find a bit of a scavenger hunt for your chance to win a Royals 1985 DVD box set. It’s a pretty cool little prize that takes a minimal amount of effort to win. The deadline to enter is June 19, and the contest has only been up since June 11, so there’s still plenty of time to get your submission in to be one of the winners.

Now, on to the good stuff…

(Photo by Minda Haas/

Billy Butler has caught the ire of the Royals fan base and there’s little justifiable reason why. At 21 years old, Butler was brought up before he was probably completely ready, and did more than hold his own on a terrible team by producing a .341 wOBA.

That year Butler also played 43 innings in left field, to which the fan base laughed and snarked at the level of defensive prowess Butler, um, had, while the real question should have been: what the heck was he doing out there in the first place?

To this point in his career he’s been “bad” enough to rack up a 4.7 fWAR, and he did that before the age of 25. While not an eye-popping number, most of the cause for it being so low is his less-than-ideal abilities on the bases and in the field, and a sophomore season where he hit .275/.324/.400, and was demoted for a short period. Sophomore slumps happen, they happen a lot, and that season at 22 years old still isn’t all that bad, especially when you consider the season’s some players have been having in a Royals uniform in what is supposed to be their prime years.

In 2009 Butler started to position himself as an elite hitter (still just 23 years old, by the way) with a .369 wOBA and being 20.8 Runs Above Replacement. Sure, even in another lost season for the Royals, Butler’s deficiencies in areas like fielding, -5.3 Fielding Runs Above Average, and base running could tend to overshadow in appearances how good and consistent a hitter he was starting to become, but they didn’t totally wreck his value as some would want everyone to believe.

Then came 2010, the poster-year for everything that is wrong with Butler in the eyes of many and it’s only because of two statistical categories (one of which with some meaning and the other without any), homeruns, and RBI. And we have Yuniesky Betancourt to blame for that.

In 2010 Butler was supposed to take “the leap” into Dominant Offensive Force territory because all signs seemed to be pointing that way. He was three-full seasons deep into his career at that point, and everything about him statistically was trending upward. At least it was for the cosmetic stats and the fans that spend too much of their time worrying about those.

The 15 homeruns and 78 RBI for Butler will forever be remembered by some as the year that Yuni lead the Royals in homeruns and tied for the lead in RBI. Ouch. Even to those that couldn’t care less about the latter statistic, that’s still a shock to read or hear, because it just doesn’t reflect well on the team. Obviously, if Yuni’s leading your team in any category other than lack-of-range, you have a problem.

But was it really a problem? Last season Butler finished with a .372 wOBA, which was “bad” enough for 31stin all of baseball. That’s right. Butler hit into a lot of double-plays, didn’t drive in that many runs because he hit behind Jason Freaking Kendall all year, but, because his walk rate went up and his strikeout rate went down, he still produced enough offensively to have only 30 players have a higher wOBA.

Billy Butler is getting better, and this season he is becoming one of the better hitters in the American League, despite being buried 5th in a lineup behind a black-hole, again. The stats speak well enough for themselves, but a couple lists to see how he compares to other DH’s will do better:

Billy Butler .407
Bobby Abreu .404
David Ortiz .395
Victor Martinez .367
Jack Cust .359

David Ortiz .437
Victor Martinez .376
Billy Butler .372
Bobby Abreu .363
Jason Kubel .360

David Ortiz 2.5
Billy Butler 1.4
Victor Martinez 1.2
Bobby Abreu 1.1
Jason Kubel 1.1

Maybe Butler just isn’t “clutch” enough for some Royals fans, though, a .450 OBP with runners in scoring position wouldn’t seem to be a bad number. Maybe he doesn’t hit for enough “power”, which would be a fine argument I guess, if it weren’t the equivalent of complaining when someone gave you a Corvette because you didn’t like the color.

Billy Butler plays in a park that is notoriously tough on hitters, where the ball doesn’t carry until it gets hot, and has extremely cavernous gaps. He’s shown improvement, sometimes significant, has shown the ability to make adjustments, and he’s still just 25 years old. He is the best hitter on the Royals and the best hitter in their lineup. Next season it may very well be Eric Hosmer, but for the time being, it’s Butler. There are things with this team that should draw the ire of Royals fans, like Chris Getz.

Billy Butler isn’t one of them.


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Tags: AL Central Billy Butler Eric Hosmer KC Royals

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