Billy Butler is a designated hitter in the truest sense of the word. (All right, two words.) Thats his role and what he does. It is why he was an All-Star a year ago and a Silver Slugger recipient.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Thats what makes this season, to this point, so difficult. Too often, Butler isnt getting the chance to perform his designated role -- even on those days when the elements permit the Royals to play.
Im not getting nearly the number of pitches to drive that I have in the past, he said. Theyre few and far between. Thats why my walks are off the charts. I cant make them throw it in the strike zone.
Butler does lead the Royals with 18 walks; nobody else has more than 10. His .414 on-base percentage also tops the club. Both totals rank among the league leaders.
Its all about avoiding outs, he said. Im not going to go out of the zone. Thats the mentality I have to have -- that Im not going to go out of the zone. But its a consistent battle every day. I want to be aggressive.
Every so often, he slips.
Trust me, he said, Im up there ready to swing. Ive gotten a few pitches to hit where Ive fouled it straight back. Or I pop it straight up to right center or left center.
I did that off (Clevelands Corey) Kluber a few times the other day. I got into a 2-0 count, and then I got a pitch I should have taken, but I let my aggressiveness get the better of me in that count, and I made an out.
The primary problem isnt Butler, but the general inability of the Royals, so far, to protect him. The hitters behind Butler in the lineup are batting a combined .209.
Thats the key, manager Ned Yost agreed. Thats why you try to have protection behind Billy. So that when they pitch around Billy, you still have somebody who can create damage.
The other key, of course, is for Butler to remain vigilant.
You cant try to make things happen when the ball is out of the strike zone, Yost said. If theyre not going to throw you strikes, youve got to take your walks -- and then trust that the guy behind you will take care of it for you.
Butler understands, but hes batting just .278 -- even after a recent six-for-14 surge. (He was at .246 prior to that.) He carried a .300 career average into the season that trailed only George Brett on the clubs all-time chart.
A designated hitter wants to hit. Still
If theyre not going to throw it in the zone, Butler said, youve got to take your base. Or you go back to the dugout with an out. Which would you rather do?
The game is all about avoiding outs, especially in my position. A walk is just as good as a single because youre on first. I have to look at it that way, especially when I get deeper in the count.
Youve just got to try to get on first base somehow.
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