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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Tags: Kansas City Royals