Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some Billy Butler comps you will like and some you won't

I was at Royals fanfest when I first heard the news that KC had signed Billy Butler to a four year/30 million dollar contract (with a fifth year club option for 12.5) and it made an enjoyable day even more so. It's a very club friendly deal and when it ends he'll still be young enough for another healthy payday. A great deal all around. It got me to thinking though, I'm curious what kind of hitter Butler will be for the next five years so I compared his career OPS+ to players from the last sixty years.

Specifically I was looking for guys whose OPS+ was close to Butler's 118 for their age 21-24 seasons and then checked to see how they did from 25 to 29. Qualifying players had an OPS+ between 115 and 120 and a minimum of 2000 plate appearances, 2000 because I wanted guys who played all of the four seasons. I took position and skill-set out of the equation and just focused on one singular stat. It's meaningless of course and certainly unscientific but I found the results rather interesting nonetheless. I came up with eleven players of all shapes and sizes, including one Hall of Famer.

Carlos Baerga
21-24 116
25-29 92
25 - 118
26 - 108
27 - 72
28 - 87
28- 76

Baerga's decline was surprising but he walked in only 4.9% of his plate appearances so I guess it shouldn't have been.

Eric Chavez
21-24 120
25-29 116
25 - 126
26 - 134
27 - 108
28 - 105
29 - 101

Chavez was doing fine until the injury bug attacked him. He played in 137 games at age 28 and 90 games the next year. He's only appeared 64 times since.

Jim Fregrosi
21-24 118
25-29 115
25 - 125
26 - 111
27 - 114
28 - 127
29 - 89

I'm not sure what happened to Fregrosi but after the the age of 28 he never had another 400 PA season. Injuries maybe?

Travis Fryman
21-24 115
25-29 101
25 - 103
26 - 97
27 - 92
28 - 99
29 - 114

Fryman hit 20+ home runs three of the five seasons and drove in over 80 runs in all of them. Unfortunately this occurred in the wild late 90's, so while he put up similar numbers as he did in his early 20's his OPS+ reflected the change in the offensive environment.

Ben Grieve
21-24 120
25-29 104
25 - 103
26 - 111
27 - 96
28 - 103
29 - 74

Fun fact, at the age of 24 Grieve led the league by grounding into 32 double plays but only hit into 28 combined the next two seasons. This fun fact is dedicated to all those who can't quit stressing over Butler's 32 double plays last year. You know who you are.

Greg Gross
21-24 116
25-29 91
25 - 80
26 - 124
27 - 82
28 - 75
29 - 100

Gross was a fourth outfielder type most of his career except for three seasons with Houston in his early 20's. He was a high contact hitter that was quite adept at getting on base (.372 career OBP) but I imagine his lack of power or speed is what kept him from regaining a starting role.

Ted Simmons
21-24 120
25-29 137
25 - 142
26 - 117
27 - 144
28 - 148
29 - 135

Simmons was wildly productive the five years (this is what I honestly believe Butler will do) and even put up a 140 OPS+ at the age 30. He then was traded along with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich from the Cardinals to the Brewers, which indirectly led to Milwaukee's 1982 World Series appearance where they were defeated by....... the Cardinals.

Jason Thompson
21-24 115
25-29 130
25 - 141
26 - 150
27 - 147
28 - 115
29 - 109

Thompson was a defensively challenged first baseman whose ability to take a walk probably wasn't appreciated in his day. He absolutely mashed for a few years but was done at age 31. He was released midseason by the Expos in 1986 despite having a .406 OBP at the time. (in 69 PA's he hit .196 with zero home runs). That somewhat reminds of the Royals releasing Bob Hamelin prior to the 1997 season, I mean all he did in 1996 was put up a .391 OBP and 110 OPS+. 

Ellis Valentine
21-24 117
25-29 104
25 - 147
26 - 69
27 - 96
28 - 96
29 - DNP

Valentine's age 24 season was his last as a full time player, which frankly surprises me because he was a guy with pop who didn't like to walk. Come on 1980's, you're sending me mixed signals!

Carl Yastrzemski
21-24 120
25-29 154
25 - 156
26 - 119
27 - 193
28 - 170
29 - 135

Yaz only qualifies for this list because of a 91 OPS+ rookie season, his 22-24 OPS+ was 130. In the five seasons he led the league in OPS+ three times and was selected MVP at age 27 after winning the triple crown.

There was one other person on the list, Ryan Zimmerman, but he just completed his age 25 season. From 21-24 he had a 115 OPS+ but busted out for a 142 at age 25.

So the lesson to be learned from all of this, if there is one, is that regression from Butler would most likely occur because of poor plate discipline or injuries. I don't think we have to worry about his plate discipline, injuries are of course are another matter as they can't be predicted. I'm expecting him to have a big season and  a 140 OPS+ would make everyone happy. There's a poll in the sidebar where you can vote your prediction, I'll go on record as saying I think it'll be in the 140's.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

He's certainly a fantastic hitter, I'll predict a 138 ops+.

oranje_boom_ca said...

Ellis Valentine could be the most talented player to ever come through Montreal (a list that includes Dawson, Carter and Guererro). His career was cut very short by taking a pitch in the face at the age of 26 and developping a serious drug problem.

Jeff Parker said...

Ok that explains his cut in playing time, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Don't see the issue with Yazs rookie season, Butler is only on the list because of a 93 OPS+ second season. He'll be closer to Thompson than Yaz but he won't be anywhere near Bearga.

Jeff Parker said...

A fair point.