Chasing Balboni: Billy Butler


I love writing about Billy Butler.

In the last couple of years, Butler’s gotten a bad  rap. He’s always been a good contact hitter and one of the best at hitting doubles. His size, though, suggested that he should be able to hit for more power. Because he wasn’t, a group of fans would perk up if he went into any slump, however brief, and state that Butler was an overrated player and that anyone could do his job as designated hitter.

It’s for that reason that I love writing about Billy Butler.

Truth is that yes, he does look like a player who should be able to knock out 30 homers year in and year out. It’s just never happened before.

Earlier this season, Butler was showing strong power numbers. At the All-Star break, he was a legitimate option to join the American League home run derby team (and infamously did not get selected). In the past week, he’s set a new career high in homers in a season, and there’s plenty of 2012 to go.

So the thought turns, as it often does, to the question of chasing down the Royals franchise home run record. Perhaps just as disappointing as the Royals 27 year playoff drought is the fact that no current major league franchise has a home run record lower than the Royals 36. Steve Balboni‘s record has stood since 1985, and really hasn’t been approached very often. The Royals haven’t even had a player hit 30 homers since Jermaine Dye‘s 33 in 2000.

Where’s Butler stand in that chase?

Before tonight’s game against the Orioles, Butler has 23 homers in 111 games. He’s working on a pace of one homer per every 20.3 plate appearances.

If he plays in every game left on the schedule (50), that pace would give him 33 homers in 2012, which should put a lot of doubters to rest (especially since his walk rate and strike out rates are better than league average and he’s batting .300).

To reach 37 homers and beat Balboni’s record, he’ll have to homer once every 15 plate appearances or every 13.5 at bats. That’s not outrageous, but it’s also a much greater pace than his current one. To reach 40 homers, he’ll have to homer about once every 12 plate appearances or about every 11th at bat. That’s a Ruthian pace, so 40 homers are probably out of reach.

Thirty homers is easily in reach and I’d say very likely to happen. Balboni’s record is pretty safe – though Butler’s always had bigger power numbers in the second half through his career, so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. Forty homers would be fun and all, but is a very unlikely feat this season.