One of my favorite athletes* in professional sports is Billy Butler. Butler hit .319/.388/.469 last year (albeit with a slightly inflated .341 BABIP), good for a .372 wOBA and 3.4 wins above replacement. He’s a below-average fielder, hits right-handed, and is only 24 years old. And, of course, he plays for the hapless Kansas City Royals, a perpetually-rebuilding organization following a “process” that no one outside of Dayton Moore’s neural pathways can understand. Here’s why you, too, can (partly rationally and partly non-rationally) like Billy Butler:
- In playing for the Royals, Butler’s individual performance is unlikely to help his team beat your team. It’s cool to be like, “yeah Billy Butler, hit a home run!” or “yeah Billy Butler, do something helpful offensively!” or “yeah Billy Butler, jokes are always funnier when you beat them to death!” because the Royals will probably still lose.
- He’s kind of chubby. Fat athletes have a sort of charm to them because they appear more like normal people sitting on their couches, alternating cheep beer with barbecue potato chips. If David Wells can play professional sports, then there’s hope for anyone.
- His name is alliterative.
- He stuck out the 25th-least of all qualified hitters last season.
Any baseball executive would be happy to have Billy Butler on his team. The Mariners, I would imagine, would as well. And perhaps they can, but by a different name: top first base prospect Justin Smoak.
Offensively, Butler can be seen as the ceiling for Smoak. He has ~20 home run power, excellent plate discipline, and a technically excellent swing. Defensively, Butler can be seen as the floor for Smoak, regularly around -3 UZR each season.
I don’t mean to suggest that Smoak and Butler are that comparable. One’s a switch-hitter and is making the league minimum for at least 5 more years, the other hits righty, and is making 7.5 million dollars for the next four years. In fact, I’m not really trying to suggest anything. I just 1) like Billy Butler, and 2) think Smoak could end up producing at a similarly high level.