Sometimes when a team is playing poorly, a great individual performance can go relatively unnoticed even amongst the fan base.  So if you haven’t noticed, Billy Butler is tearing the cover off of the ball.  He is currently hitting .341 which puts him fourth in the American League.

I realize that this isn’t 1986 anymore and that there are much better ways of measuring players against each other, like OBP and wOBA, but batting average still carries weight.  The .400 season will always capture the attention of baseball fans and a .300 hitter will always be looked upon in a good light.  Statistics are good for more than just comparing one player to another overall, they tell a story.  Batting average tells you how often a guy puts wood on the ball and ends up on base and as fans, hits are exiting to watch.

In Royals terms, how significant is this season so far?  Here are the top 10 individual batting average seasons in Royals history:

Player Average Year
1 George Brett .390 1980
2 Mike Sweeney .340 2002
3 George Brett .335 1985
4 George Brett .333 1976
4 Mike Sweeney .333 2000
6 Hal McRae .332 1976
7 Willie Wilson .332 1982
8 George Brett .329 1990
9 George Brett .329 1979
10 Johnny Damon .327 2000

Every Royal fan knows, or should know that George Brett’s 1980 season where he hit .390 is the bench mark.  Not very many teams have a player with a .390 or better season in their history.  Suffice to say, I don’t think Butler is going to reach that record this season.  However, he is currently above .340 so I think there is certainly a chance he could end up in the top five of this list if he keeps hitting.

I wanted to see where Butler stacked up after 45 games with some of these great seasons.  I plotted the batting averages for the top five seasons on a per game basis.

Click To Enlarge

On the left axis is the batting average and on the bottom axis isa running total of the players games played that season.  I drew a line at 45 to see where Butler ranked.  There is some very interesting information on this chart:

  • George Brett did not play a whole lot of games in 1980 when he was making his run at .390
  • In 1985 Brett was hitting .317 which was the lowest of all the seasons on the chart after 45 games
  • Somewhere right around 45 games the batting averages stop fluctuating wildly, indicating it is a pretty significant sample size
  • In general at around game 30, the batting averages start a steady rise, which peaks around game 82 or so and then begins a decline up until the end of the season

So it appears that at this point, Billy is on pace or better than on pace for a top five season in Royals history.  The next forty games likely will be the difference maker.  It seems that in this pretty small sample, being at or above .350 at the peak of the season is the key to having a .333 or better season.  I don’t know if all good batting average seasons look like this chart, but there is a definite pattern in this one.

It is still early in the season, but it doesn’t look like we are going to be rooting for a contender.  However there are good story lines within the team, and possibly a historic batting performance for a young Royal.

Player Average Year
1 George Brett .390 1980
2 Mike Sweeney .340 2002
3 George Brett .335 1985
4 George Brett .333 1976
4 Mike Sweeney .333 2000
6 Hal McRae .332 1976
7 Willie Wilson .332 1982
8 George Brett .329 1990
9 George Brett .329 1979
10 Johnny Damon .327 2000