Heading into the 2014 season, there were a number of question marks when it came to the Kansas City Royals roster. Would Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez take that next step? Would Mike Moustakas finally develop into the power hitter the Royals hoped he would be? Could the Royals plan to put the ball in play and put pressure on opposing defenses, playing 1980’s baseball, actually work?
For all the question marks that the Royals had, there was one player that was expected to be a rock in the lineup. Billy Butler had been one of the Royals best hitters over the past five years, and was the one player that the Royals could expect to perform. After all, from 2009 through 2013, Butler had averaged a .302/.372/.469 batting line with 20 home runs and 40 doubles. Even if Butler was not the prototypical power hitter that most teams employ as a designated hitter, he was still quite the productive player for the Royals.
Yet, that typical production just did not come at the start of the year. Butler struggled through most of the first six weeks of the year, and had posted a meager .226/.284/.288 batting line with only one home run. Known as someone who has a knack for putting the bat on the ball, Butler struck out 31 times in his 146 at bats. With the struggles of the Royals offense in general, Butler’s issues stood out even more.
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However, Billy Butler’s struggles may have been solved. As Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol was watching tape of Butler’s at bats, he noticed a slight problem with his swing. Specifically, Butler was not keeping his right elbow close to his body, a mechanical issue that Grifol felt was resulting in a lot of weak ground balls.
However, since that adjustment made late last week, Butler has been on fire. Over his past five games, Butler has produced a .474/.500/.579 batting line, hitting the ball sharply even when he has been making outs. Yes, this hot streak has been over a short period of time, and even Moustakas looked competent for a week, so it is far too early to throw Butler’s Welcome Back party. Yet, given his track record of success, it is far more likely that Butler has actually been fixed mechanically.
Billy Butler was supposed to be the rock in the Royals offense, the one given in a lineup full of questions. Now, after a month and a half, Butler finally looks like the hitter that the Royals expected.