Billy Butler went three for five last night with two doubles and two runs batted in.   By the end of the evening, his slugging percentage was higher than it has been since May 5th:  continuing a rise from an unsatisfactory .406 on July 15th to its current mark of .465. 

Currently, Butler’s on-base percentage of .370 is second only to Alex Gordon.  His slugging is basically in a tie for second with Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, again trailing only Alex Gordon (not sure if you noticed, but Alex Gordon is really, really good this year).   Billy leads the team in walks, is one of four regulars with more than 30 doubles and is in the heated race to be the team’s home run leader.   Admittedly, leading the Royals in home runs is right there with being the tallest midget, but it still counts.

When it comes to the corpulent Mr. Butler, he has a three year run that looks like this:

  • 2009:  .301/.362/.492 with 51 doubles, 21 home runs and an OPS+ of 125
  • 2010: .318/.388/.469 with 45 doubles, 15 home runs and an OPS+ of 134, cutting his strikeouts by 25 from 2009 and increasing his walks by 11 in virtually an identical number of plate appearances
  • 2011: .295/.370/.465 with 32 doubles, 16 home runs and an OPS+ of 132

If Butler continues to hit as he has over the past six weeks, he will end up with somewhere around 42 doubles and 21 home runs by season’s end.   Along the way this year, Billy has grounded into just 12 double plays after apparently bringing us all to the bring of Armegeddon in 2010 by grounding into a league leading 32.

We all know that Butler is a poor fielder, but luckily the Royals play in a league that allows you to bat a guy who doesn’t have to play in the field – not even once!   So yes, Butler’s overall value to the Royals is not as great as that of Gordon, Cabrera and Francoeur given that he brings nothing to the statistical arena when it comes to fielding, but every team in the AL plays with a designated hitter.   Ten of those teams basically have full-time designated hitters and among those ten, Billy ranks:

  • 2nd in home runs
  • 2nd in doubles
  • 3rd in RBI (just for Ryan and Frank)
  • 4th in batting average
  • 3rd in on-base percentage
  • 3rd in slugging percentage

Analyzing the DH position as a whole (each team’s cumulative totals for whomever has appeared there – for the Royals that is Butler in all but five games), the Royals rank:

  • 3rd in batting average
  • 2nd in on-base percentage
  • 3rd in slugging
  • 2nd in OPS+

So, what will it take for Billy Butler to be loved by Royals’ fans?

Yes, Billy is ridiculously slow – one of his doubles last night would have been a triple for at least 80% of the league – and it doesn’t seem as though Butler runs as hard as he used to.   Probably, at some point, Billy realized that no matter how hard he runs, he is still slow:  he is never going to beat out an infield single or stretch a double into a triple.   Billy is not ‘Jose Guillen it’ out there, but he may not be busting it down the line as he did in 2009.   I don’t know that there was even an instance this season where I thought if Billy was running harder that he would have been safe.   Butler is slow, no debate there, but I don’t see it as the devastating liability that some do.

Yes, Billy has seemed grumpy this season.   He doesn’t like being a full-time DH and whines about it on occasion when he probably should just keep quiet.   Guys grumble all the time, however.  My guess is there are three people in any of your offices or classes right now bitching about something – that’s life.   Considering that a sector of this fanbase thought David DeJesus ‘smiled too much’, they ought to tolerate a bit of a grump.

Billy Butler is slow and a little grumpy and HAS AN OPS+ OF 132:  maybe we can cut Billy a little slack.  Sure, we would love to have a designated hitter who has an OBP of .370 or better and hits 40 home runs, but then every team in the American League that does not have David Ortiz can say the same thing.   I am not sure that the prototypcial DH type exists these days (Jim Thome is a part time player, Adam Dunn can’t hit anymore and Travis Hafner is hurt) and if that is the case, then Billy Butler is easily one of the top three designated hitters currently in the league.  

If that truly is the case, then again, what will it take for Billy Butler to be loved?