Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler enters the 2014 MLB season trying to determine whether the power he showed in 2012 was one fleeting season of excellence, or a standard he can reattain that will make him a more dangerous weapon as part of the Royals’ offense.
In 2012, Butler hit for career-highs in both home runs (29) and RBIs (107). The year was quite notable in that he hadn’t hit more than 21 homers in a season throughout the rest of his career, and the 107 RBIs marked the first time Butler had reached triple-digits in that category, his previous high being 95 in 2011.
As the Royals improved as a club last season, winning 86 games, Butler’s numbers went down by a good margin. Butler fell off to just 82 RBIs, his lowest total since 2010. He hit only 15 home runs, identical to his 2010 season. His batting average also dropped by 24 points, but from a statistical standpoint, the most concerning factor when it came to his 2013 season was his sharp decline in slugging percentage.
With fewer doubles, triples, and homers than the year before, Butler saw his slugging number crater from his career high of .510 in 2012 to .412 in 2013.
Such a drop is something you might see from an older player who is no longer going to put up legitimate numbers and is staring retirement in the face, but Butler shouldn’t be in that category. The 2014 season will be his seventh full MLB campaign. The 2009 season was the only other time he hit more than 20 homers (21).
Butler’s drop-off in 2013 was so precipitous that it prompted trade rumors. Trading him now would be foolish for the Royals, as the designated hitter doesn’t present any value to a NL club and what he could bring in return from a fellow AL club is much less now than it would have been at this time a year ago.
At best, the Royals would have to hope Butler gets off to a good start in 2014, and then maybe he can be dealt closer to the trade deadline, depending on how Kansas City’s season is going.
But if Butler improves that much, given that he turns just 28 in April, there would be no reason to deal him. For now, Kansas City has to hold steady with what they have in Butler and hope that his 2012 season isn’t an anomaly in what has otherwise been a decent but not outstanding career. If Butler can return to his 2012 form, the Royals might be a team to watch in the AL Central in 2014.