Apr 5, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals batter Billy Butler (16) singles in a run against the Chicago White Sox during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Cleanup Hitters Are Not Getting the Job Done

Apr 20, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) at bat against the Minnesota Twins during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

By definition, the cleanup hitter is expected to clear the bases. Typically, this is expected to happen by driving a ball into the gap for an extra base hit or to hit a home run with men on base. This season, the Kansas City Royals cleanup hitters have been clearing the bases, typically by ending the inning or hitting into double plays instead.

Heading into last night’s game against the Cleveland Indians, Royals cleanup hitters have ‘hit’ at a .119/.176/.134 rate with one extra base hit. Instead of being the run producing bat that the cleanup hitter typically is, that spot has ended enough innings where Alex Gordon had led off as many innings as Nori Aoki. Good thing Gordon got used to leading off  in previous years.

Billy Butler had been horrific to start the season, turning into a ground ball machine who seemingly had a knack for hitting the inning ending double play. Accordingly, Ned Yost made the smart decision to move Butler down in the lineup and insert the, at the time, white hot bat of Salvador Perez in the cleanup spot. Whatever had infected Butler remained in that spot in the lineup, as Perez suddenly stopped hitting once inserted in the cleanup role. Now, Butler is back hitting fourth as the Royals try to find some production from their cleanup hitters.

Butler, in fact, led the team in hitting from the cleanup spot, with a (comparatively) robust .137/.207/.137 batting line heading into last night. That is the type of production one might expect from a pitcher in the National League, not the cleanup spot.

Eventually, that production will come. Billy Butler will hit like Billy Butler, and not the former Royals pitcher from the early days of the franchise. Salvador Perez will get a day or two off and have the rest needed to stop hitting like Neifi Perez. At some point, Royals cleanup hitters will begin to actually clean the bases with hits, not inning ending outs.

Hopefully, that change will happen soon. As it presently stands, the Royals cleanup hitters are simply not getting the job done.


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  • moretrouble

    You’re right, of course Dave, there has been a hole in the 4 spot in the KC order so far. Rarely, though, does every part of a team perform well … all at the same time … for an extended period. I think everyone sees how good KC could be, but whether they can get everyone performing well is anyone’s guess.

    I do not believe Perez is tired. He’s 23 and position players that age don’t really get tired this early in the season … even catchers. A day or two off to work on his hitting in the cage could be a good idea … just get him out of there to think about fundamentals with the hitting coach for a day or two.

    • Dave Hill

      It just amazed me when I looked at the stats for Royals cleanup hitters. I knew that spot wasn’t producing, but that badly? And how Perez immediately went ice cold when being inserted into the cleanup spot? Can’t afford to have a hole in the lineup there, of all places.

      I’m VERY curious to see if Perez gets the day game off tomorrow. If not, I really want to know why.