Thursday, July 31, 2008

Billy Butler on the Rebound?

I'm a huge Billy Butler fan, and I think he has the potential to be an incredible hitter along the lines of Manny Ramirez or Prince Fielder, so I was very disappointd when he started the year out so horribly. I was even more concerned when he had just 1 home run through April and May, and was sent back down to AAA in June. But he has since bounced back with 5 home runs in July, and he's beginning to look like the hitter I always thought he would be.

While his overall stats aren't eye popping just yet, he is beginning to show signs of breaking out, even in a Kansas City offense that is lethargic at best. Here are his strike out and walk rates in the majors since the beginning of the year.

While his strike outs never went sky high, and his walk rate wasn't horrible, the overall trend earlier this year was a bit out of whack. Since his minor league stint, Butler seems to have made some adjustments to his location in the batters box, allowing him to cover the plate more efficiently as well as pick up pitch locations better. According to Butler, the change was only a matter of inches, but it seems to have been sufficient enough to correct his original pitch selection issues (or at least mentally convince him that the problem has been fixed).

But aside from strike out rates, Butler's other stats are looking much better as well.

While the drop in BABIP -- and consequently OBP -- is worth noting, I'm really more interested in Butler's power production, which has seen a huge jump from earlier in the season. Though his ground ball and line drive rates haven't changed much, his slugging and ISOP are both up nearly 100 points, indicating that Butler is finally getting some lift on the ball, thereby increasing the trajectory on balls hit in the air, which ultimately adds to the home run totals. Lift doesn't always help the ol' BABIP since it results in more fly balls and fewer line drives, but it does help a hitters confidence and is an initial sign of a better swing plane.

At 22, Butler obviously has a long way to go, but he also has a high level of natural talent and plenty of time for it to shine through. If I were a GM I'd take Billy Butler any day, and I think the Royals are lucky to have him. The BABIP will sneak back up closer to his minor league average of .350+, and the slugging percentage will continue to trend upwards for the next 5 or 6 yers. If Butler shows that his July stats are the real deal, I fully expect him to be hitting close to .300 and on pace for 30 home runs by the end of 2009.

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