The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
If you want to read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.
Up next: designated hitter Billy Butler.
Royals fans seem to be of two minds about the Kansas City designated hitter, Billy Butler. Some seem to think he is a terrific part of the team, and probably the best hitter on the roster. Others seem to question whether or not the Royals would be better with him or without him.
The answer to that question is easy. The Kansas City Royals are better with Billy Butler in the middle of the line up. Period.
The problem lies in the fact the Royals can’t afford a true power hitting thumper. They have to grow their own players because they just do not have the money to sign any big bat free agents. Cry all you like. That is a fact.
Kansas City hasn’t been any good at growing these players, just they haven’t been good developing starting pitchers. It is something the Royals need to address. They have tried with Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. It just hasn’t worked out the way the Royals needed it to, although the juries are still out on Hosmer and Moustakas.
For now, Billy Butler is what the Royals have as a clean up hitter. To tell the truth, he is a pretty darn good bargain at $8 million.
It is a fact however, that Kansas City needs Butler to be closer to what he was in 2012 than what he produced in 2013. In 2012, his slash was .313/.373/.510/.882, and he had 29 home runs and 107 RBI. These are the numbers of a true hitting star – if they can be duplicated.
Butler’s number in 2013, while decent enough, were not enough to push the offense to new heights. His slash was .289/.374/.412/.787. The first two numbers were not far of from the previous season but his power numbers dropped drastically. His Slugging Percentage fell nearly 100 points. It was also the lowest it has been since 2008.
He only hit 15 home runs last year, half of his 2012 output. Not only that, but his doubles dropped for the 4th consecutive season, as he hit only 27 in 2013. Butler had just 42 extra base hits last season, compared with 62 in 2012, and 73 in 2009.
Let this be clear – the Kansas City Royals are going to continue to struggle offensively if Billy Butler doesn’t provide significantly more punch than he did in 2013. He doesn’t necessarily need to match his 2012 numbers, although that would be awesome.
The Royals do need him to maintain his career batting average of .298, and be around his career average in On Base Percentage of .364, but they really needs his SLG% to be closer to .500, and his OPS to be over .850. If he duplicates last season’s numbers, the Royals are in trouble.
With Gordon moving in behind Butler in the batting order, Butler should enjoy some better, more consistent protection. The Royals, in theory, have three really solid bats in the middle of their batting order, four if Salvador Perez continues to improve with the bat.
For a team with a very limited budget, the middle of this line up is as solid as they come.If they produce.
When discussing Butler, it would be remiss not to mention his severe career ground ball tendencies. According to Fangraphs.com, Butler hits ground balls 48.1% of the time, and that number jumped to 53.1% last season. He doesn’t hit any more line drives than average (19.5% for his career), so it is imperative that he get the ball in the air more often to give himself a chance to hit more home runs and doubles.
With his lack of speed, Butler only gets infield hits 4.4% of the time. He loses several hits a season just because he can’t beat much out that an infielder can reach.
Of course, fewer ground balls may help lower his double plays balls, too. Butler, who has hit into 147 career double plays, and has led the majors twice in that category, can frustrate fans to no end with this hitting foible.
Billy Butler is the key to the Royals’ offense. If he can hit maybe 23-26 home runs, and push his doubles total to around 35, and the bats around him help out, the Royals should be able score enough runs to at least make up the difference caused by the inevitable regression the pitching staff will make.
For $8 million, Billy Butler is a bargain, even with the sub par stats from a year ago. Next season, his salary jumps to $12.5 million. That is still a bargain for his 2012 stats, not so much for his 2013 numbers.