As a guy who has lacked in home run power over the beginning of his career in Kansas City, Billy Butler, has taken the bull by the horns this season setting a new career high in home runs only 111 games into the 2012 season. Butler is on pace to become the first Royal to hit 30 home runs in a season since Jermaine Dye did it in 2000. A 12 year drought could be broken by a player who for most of his young career has been criticized for not having enough power for not only his stature but also his position being designated hitter.
The power has changed from double to home runs this season mainly because instead of relying on his upper body to do all the work at the plate Butler has worked hard to get his legs stronger over the last 9 months and using them at the plate has equated into more lift on balls that are now carrying over the fence instead of bouncing off of the warning track. One stat that has not been given enough credit was his ability to hit the double. Trailing only New York Yankee second basemen in doubles since the beginning of the 2009 season, Butler has 158 two baggers, according to Baseball-Reference. That is an astounding number that seems to have been pushed away because they are not turning into home runs. Everyone believes that if you have to power to hit that many doubles then you have the power to hit home runs. It does not work that way because it is not about the power or strength but the swing that the hitter has. Over the first parts of his career Butler seemed to not lift the ball when it was needed and would use a more level swing that resulted in line drives in the gaps instead of towering fly balls into the stands. But until the last two season Butler simply was not supposed to be the guy who hit the ball over the wall and gave the team the offensive lift they need. He has been asked to be a hitter and a hitter he has been. But now he needs to continue to show the power he has shown so far in 2012.
On pace for 34 home runs this season two shy of the club record of 36 set in 1985 by the powerful Steve Balboni. The amount of home runs is not what stands out the most in the case of Butler. The fact that he recognized that as the hitting leader of this team the best way to do that is lead by example. In the off season he saw that he needed to work on his weakness of strength in his lower body which would help get more lift on the baseball and turn doubles in the gaps into home runs into the seats.
The philosophy that both Butler and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer have taken in the 2012 sea on seems to be working not only in the power department but a continued success to all fields for Butler. His doubles have gone down but that is what happens when the ball that were hitting the fence are now traveling over the fence. To ask a guy to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career and continue a pace of 47 doubles per year for the last three seasons would be outrageous. The statistic that continues to slipped the minds of critics of Butler is the fact that the man is only 26 years old. By comparison to other designated hitters of past that people would like to see Bulter become Edgar Martinez did not hit 30 home runs in a season until he was 37 years old. he did flirt with 30 home runs in 1995 which still was when he was 33 years old.
Comparing the two a bit more in Martinez’s first 6 seasons in the major leagues he hit 91 home runs, 204 doubles, with 381 RBI while having a batting average of .290. Now Butler in his first six seasons, which as of right now is 13 at bats less than Martinez had at this point in his career, has hit 97 home runs, 203 doubles, with 445 RBI and a batting average of .298, according to Baseball-Reference. If Butler continues to improve on an already good beginning to his career and progresses faster than Martinez did in Seattle than the Royals could have a once in a lifetime statistic wonder on their hands.
Everyone knew that Butler was going to be a hitter but hitters do not alway produce. Having a guy that is going to consistently flirt with a three hundred average which never seems to dip under .290 nor exceed .315 is something that can be found anywhere but having that same guy perform with the production that Butler has shown in just six years is priceless. He started out as two eggs over easy with a side of toast and now has turned into a full country breakfast. But over the season to come all we can do is wait and see if Butler can become the Thanksgiving dinner to lead the Royals to success in September and beyond.