Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Consistently Good Billy Butler

Nothing gets the Royals section of twitter raging like a good old fashion Billy Butler debate. Due to his great second half the "he doesn't hit enough home runs so he should be traded" rallying cry was replaced with "hey, he's hitting home runs so let's trade him for a #1 starter". Whatever. Long time readers here - and followers on twitter - know how I feel about Butler and how I'd freak out if he actually was traded.

I've never been concerned about Butler's power simply because of the amount of doubles he hits (I think the McRae comp is still a good one). I'm also unswayed by the new reasons to purge the roster of his bat - that he's no longer cheap and a full time designated hitter limits roster flexibility. The 8 million he'll make each of the next three seasons is hardly a payroll back breaker and it shouldn't inhibit the team from making long term offers to Hosmer and company. The team option for 12.5 million in 2015 is a bit too pricey but I fully expect they'll buy that out. There is something to the roster flexibility argument, but honestly, I fail to see how inserting a weaker bat into the lineup for the sake of flexibility makes the team better.

However you feel about Butler, one indisputable fact remains, the man can hit a baseball. Still though, I'm not sure fans fully realize how good he's been since the start of the 2009 season. He is just one of seven major leaguers to crack 60+ extra base hits and post an on base percentage of .360 or higher in each of the last three years. I'm not suggesting he's as good as the rest of the players on this list, because he isn't. I'm just pointing out that Butler consistently excels in two areas critical to run production and he wouldn't be easy to replace.

Here is the complete list:
Yrs From To Age
Joey Votto 3 2009 2011 25-27
Troy Tulowitzki 3 2009 2011 24-26
Albert Pujols 3 2009 2011 29-31
Adrian Gonzalez 3 2009 2011 27-29
Miguel Cabrera 3 2009 2011 26-28
Billy Butler 3 2009 2011 23-25
Ryan Braun 3 2009 2011 25-27
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

If you're unimpressed consider that such a season has only been accomplished by twelve players in Royals history. If you add in a minimum 125 OPS+ to the qualifying stats the number of players is reduced to nine

Yrs From To Age
George Brett 8 1977 1990 24-37
Billy Butler 3 2009 2011 23-25
Danny Tartabull 3 1987 1991 24-28
Mike Sweeney 2 1999 2001 25-27
Johnny Damon 2 1999 2000 25-26
Hal McRae 2 1977 1982 31-36
Alex Gordon 1 2011 2011 27-27
Carlos Beltran 1 2001 2001 24-24
Jermaine Dye 1 2000 2000 26-26
Joe Randa 1 1999 1999 29-29
Al Cowens 1 1977 1977 25-25
John Mayberry 1 1975 1975 26-26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

As good as the offense is projected to be there are still a lot of questions.

Those answers will be provided during the season, but right now, here's what we do know - Butler will smack around 60 extra base hits and get on base 36% of the time. You know what folks, let's keep him around.

And be happy that he's here.

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