Apr 9, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) singles against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
The Kansas City Royals are trying to climb back up the standings after dropping 3 in a row against the Minnesota Twins over the weekend. Outside of a bad outing by Bruce Chen pitching has been pretty good. Certainly better than 5-7. They’ve allowed 4 runs per game. Unfortunately the offense has only scored more than 4 runs twice. The offense is just killing this team. Specifically Billy Butler.
(Editor’s Note: this article was written before Thursday’s line-up was turned in, and before Lorenzo Cain was placed on the Disabled List. Kudos to Brian for being a day or two ahead of the Royals.)
So far this season Billy has played in every game and hit just .143/.224/.143 for an OPS+ of 7. He has no extra base hits and grounded into 3 double plays. He will start hitting eventually.
He is too young with a long enough track record not to. I don’t mind double plays from him as much as some people do. He’s slow and he hits the ground on the ball a lot. Most importantly he’s batting in a position to get the most double play opportunities.
For instance he leads the team right now with most double play opportunities. When he’s hitting well it’s frustrating to see him kill a rally but in the course of a season it isn’t that big of a deal. The rest of his offense is much more valuable.
Right now the Royals can’t afford to keep Billy hitting 4th. It’s too much of a favor to the opponent to have so many base runners in front of him with no real threat of consequence. So far it’s been tough for the Royals to stay out of the double regardless of who is hitting. Going into Wednesdays game the Royals are 3rd in grounding into double plays. At the same time they are the 3rd worst in On Base Percentage.
As I write this Salvadore Perez has grounded into 2 double plays in this game, giving him 3 on the season. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have already reached that mark with 3 a piece.
The team leader right now is Eric Hosmer with 4. So, on average every game this season 1 of the heart of the order batters has hit into a double play.
I have a proposal for maximizing the lineup, at least until Billy gets back to being Billy. Yost likes to alternate lefties and righties in the lineup. I’m pretty much okay with that and will set this lineup the same way as much as possible. Rather than just switch Billy Butler and Salvadore Perez I think there are a couple of more things that can be done.
Kansas City Royals second basemen Omar Infante (14) Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
First of all start the lineup with a right handed hitter. Either Omar Infante or Lorenzo Cain would look good in the lead off spot. The reason for starting the lineup off with a right handed hitter is to get a rightie into the 3rd spot in the batting.
As far as I’m concerned, if we’re going to mix up the order then let’s go all the way. Batting 2nd would be Alex Gordon. We saw him at the top of the order last season and he looked good there.
The whole point in switching up the order is really to get Salvadore Perez batting 3rd in the lineup. So far he has been more than what I think anyone would have expected. He is far and away the best hitter on the team right now. With 2 good on base guys in front of him we could see a lot more run production.
From here things get a little more obvious. Have Eric Hosmer bat cleanup. Billy then goes into the 5th spot. At that spot he’s not in a good position to kill as many opportunities while he’s bad and once he gets going again it’s high enough to have an impact on run scoring.
Batting 6th would be Lorenzo Cain. I think he’s shown enough that the least we can expect of him is being a league average hitter. Forcing him to hit between Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar seems almost mean to me. I know that this puts 2 right handed hitters in a row but it has to happen somewhere in the lineup.
Moose/Valencia would bat 7th. After tonight I can’t justify having Moose hit against lefties anymore. Not when a roster spot is being used for this exact purpose and Velencia looks to be ready to take over in the platoon. Alcides Escobar would bat 8th. Nori Aoki would go into the 9th spot. Of the kind of league averge hitters on right now he’s just the odd man out. So he gets to be a second lead off man.
After saying all of that I understand that moving guys around in the lineup based on 13 games may not be the best idea. I’ve heard enough players talk about being uncomfortable constantly switching line up positions that even if this were the lineup it could be a waste of time and actually hurt things.
Something does have to be done about Billy Butler hitting 4th. I’m hoping that we see Butler and Salvy switch spots in the lineup as soon as Thursday night’s game. If no switch is made and Billy doesn’t start heating up, it has to be this weekend.