Billy Butler was today named the winner of the 2012 Silver Slugger award at Designated Hitter. The Silver Sluggers are nice, if slightly overlooked, awards for the more clearly measurable offensive production at each position and it is a feather in the cap of any player who wins one. But at designated hitter it is of particular note as of course offensive production is the only task. Unlike at the other positions, the best offensive designated hitter by definition is the best designated hitter in baseball and this year that was Billy Butler.
It is a well-deserved award, Butler hit .315 as a DH this year and led all designated hitters with 170 hits at that position. He also had the lion’s share of his 107 RBIs when batting as a designated hitter and 23 of his 29 home runs. He also demonstrated a considerable knack for getting hits at the right time and particularly hitting tying or go-ahead home runs late in games.
Butler is perhaps a quintessential designated hitter. He still occasionally plays at first base, but only very seldom and his glove work is considerably below average. His speed and range are also both poor. But by playing for an American League club that all becomes irrelevant. I actually don’t like the designated hitter rule overall; I much prefer the lower scoring and more tactical game played under the National League rules. But having the designated hitter and having someone as good as Butler to play there is a godsend for the Kansas City Royals
Butler is the seventh different Royal to win the award since it was introduced in 1980. Unsurprisingly, George Brett was one of the inaugural winners and he repeated in the Royals’ Championship year of 1985 and again in 1988 as a first baseman. Willie Wilson is the only other Royal to have won it more than once, but I would not be at all surprised to see Butler join that list in the next few years.