Billy Butler is having a down year, at least compared to last year, and recently I have heard several folks saying that the Royals need an upgrade at DH for next year and the future. This is absolutely crazy. Billy may not be as good as we want him to be, but he is a solid DH.
We can all agree that this is a down year for Billy, right? He has his lowest HR, AVG, R, and Slug since 2008 and he is still an above average hitter according to Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference! By WRC+ he is ranked as the 7th best DH in his worst year in half a decade, and one of those above him shouldn’t count as a DH (Joe Mauer), and he is tied with Chris Carter. The only designated hitters on the list I would say are definitively better are David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, and Carlos Santana. That’s it unless you want to try to argue for Kendrys Morales, and I would rather keep Billy. By my ranking that makes Butler the 4th best DH in baseball today and people are saying the Royals need to upgrade.
I wish that Billy could hit more home runs, I really do. He hit 29 last year, and this seemed to make his expectations for this year go way, way up. That has made this year for him seem much worse than it has been. He is hitting .287/.375/.407, so you can see the power was down this year, but he is leading the team in OBP, and is only two behind Alex Gordon for the lead in RBIs. It isn’t like he has not been productive, just not as productive as we had hoped.
If you also look at who was hitting in front of him and directly behind him in the year, his new record
walk rate in 2013 makes perfect sense. Alcides Escobar hit 2nd for way too long, Eric Hosmer was up in front of and behind early when he was struggling, Salvador Perez also didn’t get going until the second half, and let’s not discuss Mike Moustakas hitting 5th as his “protection” at times. Why not walk Butler, there is no reason to throw him anything.
Is Billy going to ever be the 30HR/100RBI middle of the order bat we wanted? No, probably not, but he is likely better than any DH we could sign or promote. Also, he is worth the $20.5 million over the next two years he will be paid, and has very little trade value. Seriously, who are you going to trade him to? No National League teams would want him, and the AL central is out (due to not trading in division and their DH situations). Boston, Toronto, Anaheim, Baltimore, and Seattle are not looking for a DH. Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Houston won’t look to add payroll. Texas and New York are probably the only two teams in baseball that would be interested. Trading him would be very difficult.
So, we are stuck with Billy, and that is fine. He is not the problem, and definitely not the one that should be at the top of Dayton Moore’s list. Short stop, third base, second base, center field, and right field all concern me much more than Billy. It is time to leave the big guy alone.