Is Billy Butler’s Power Real?

Billy Buter, AKA Country Breakfast, may finally be worth a slot as a full-time first baseman in standard formats. Butler’s often had to be utilized as a fill in at the position or someone to stick in the utility slot, but his increased power has made him a top-12 player at the most hitter friendly position in the game.

Butler has always been a high contact guy, which is extremely useful in fantasy formats. Rather than a .260 average that you get out of a lot of first baseman, Butler’s had seasons of .292, .275, .301, .318, .291, .294 in his six seasons in the majors. The issue with Butler in fantasy formats has always been a lack of power combined with a usually poor offense around him. Despite playing in 158 games in each of the past three seasons, Butler has yet to top 100 RBI or 80 R, so he has really just been a one category player in comparison to other first baseman who contribute to four.

Now, things may be changing. As Eno covered in January, hitter power peaks are rather early in careers. The highest ISO on average comes between ages 24 and 25, with it declining at a steady pace for the next four years until age 30. Butler is in his age 26 season, so it is not completely out of the ordinary for his power to peak now. The chart Eno has in his article is just an average, so producing a career high ISO a year or two after the expected peak is certainly common.

Butler’s current ISO is .219, while his career average is .165 and his highest ever mark was .191, which came in 2009 when he hit 21 home runs. At Butler’s current pace, he would hit 34 homers with 109 RBI and 69 R. Even if he slows down a bit, Butler will be more of a three category guy than the two-ish he was before, when the only real categories he helped out in were RBI and average.

What’s especially interesting about Butler’s season, and what also makes him a potential sell high candidate, is that his walk-to-strikeout rate is the worst of his career at 0.41. His career average is 0.63, so this is a noted step down from his annual rate. Another sign to worry about is his HR/FB rate of 21.2%. His previous career high is 11.9%, so even though I believe his power is improved, a rate this high is at least somewhat unsustainable. If he drops back to his career average of 10.5% for the remainder of the year, he should still net around 25 home runs, which is still pretty useful when combined with his high average.

There are a few ways to handle Butler, but I would currently try to ride out his performance and see if his power numbers remain solid as well as what his BB/K rate looks like in a few weeks. Selling high is certainly an option if you see a team with a first base need and you have a replacement, but buying high is also another option, as Butler is in the prime of his career and could produce stellar results throughout the season. My personal recommendation is to hold, but certain situations could lead to him being a quality sell high candidate.

Print This Post

Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

8 Responses to “Is Billy Butler’s Power Real?”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Peter says:

    Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but I think Rotographs can do better than dividing players by a category-dichotomy, where a player either “helps out” in a certain category, or does not. This piece seems to imply that Butler’s current ISO spike jumps him from a non-helper in HR to a helper.

    That dichotomy just seems like a far more simplistic approach to fantasy player analysis than readers should expect here at fangraphs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • supgreg says:

      You used the word “dichotmoy” twice, I expect more of a vocabulary from a reader hear at fangraphs, get your thesaurus out.

      The article is about how Butler is on a pace to hit more homers than he ever has, I’m not sure I need a graph to illustrate what the author was trying to point out, the words were just fine.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Paul says:

    The only thing Billy Butler has changed this year is to be even more hacktastic and groundbally than in the past. His power numbers are pretty much the definition of a fluke, as are the RBIs.

    Just take a look at the doubles. While he is on pace for big HR numbers, he is also on pace for the lowest full season doubles total of his career. Having watched him quite a bit this season, the home runs are not the result of good ABs and what previously were doubles carrying over the fence. If he maintains his current GB% it will be the highest of his career for a full season, and he’s already a very high groundball hitter for a guy who is supposed to hit for power.

    He is trying to hit home runs and willing to sacrifice AVG. He doesn’t have a fly ball swing, so it’s a testament to his talent that he could hit for decent power in that park without a dramatic swing overhaul, and with a pathetic, hacktastic approach that you would expect to see in a Domincan junior league game. Adjust for the fluky HR rate, but don’t regress it all the way down. I would expect for him to up the rate to about 15% on the year, which now puts his expected AVG down around .280, and about 27 HRs.

    All of this is of course contingent upon consistency, which in Kansas City is non-existent. My caveat is that he could dramatically change his approach (again) in late July after a long slump, and hit .380 with 30 doubles the rest of the way.

    If you are in a sim league and somebody is willing to give up real value, I’d dump him like a hot potato ASAP. But monitor, and if the doubles start piling up in early August be willing to buy back low. He’s talented, but there is no emphasis whatsoever on professional ABs in that org. They are encouraged to hack and it suits his childish mentality.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Clint Robinson says:

      Kila, man, c’mon, take iteasy. Billy has always been very nice to both of us, and he’s a good ball player, too.

      Sorry, everybody. I really though the mild climate in Oakland would improve Kila’s mood, but I guess he’s still just as bitter as ever.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Kila says:

        I was blocked by the Masters of Hacktastery (Hoz and Billy) in KC and now I’m being block by a guy who won’t swing at anything, and when he does he has warning track power. Glad you’re still on the good weed, Clint, I’d be even more bitter if I were you.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Big Jgke says:

    Dude. Moobs. The nickname is Moobs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. saucypony says:

    So glad the ‘Country Breakfast’ name has caught on.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. This was interesting to read, as I had been wondering about this very question myself. In fact I just wrote up an analysis on my blog. I looked at it in more of a general sense than fantasy sense, and looked at some different metrics.

    Vote -1 Vote +1