Billy Butler Heads to the Bay Area

Wow. We sure as heck didn’t see this one coming. If your computer crashed/you lost power/aliens abducted you for a day, and this is the first article you’re reading since, you missed one head scratching signing by the Oakland Athletics. That, of course, was Billy Butler. He figures to be the team’s every day designated hitter, and perhaps play a couple of games here and there at first base. For future Butler owners, hopefully those games at first come as starts in National League parks. Let’s take a gander at how departing Kauffman Stadium for the awesomely named O.co Coliseum may affect his performance.

Below are the relevant 2014 right-handed hitter park factors for each stadium:

Team Basic 1B as R 2B as R 3B as R HR as R K BB
Royals 101 102 100 112 96 99 101
Athletics 97 99 99 91 96 97 99

The Basic, strikeout (K) and walk (BB) factors are not right-handed batter specific. Surprisingly, Kauffman stadium actually played as a slight hitter’s park this year. We always knew that the Coliseum favored pitchers, but based on overall run scoring, the move away from Kansas City is actually a negative for Butler.

Yes, parks could influence strikeout and walk rates, but the factors in the two parks are both pretty close to each other. Butler shouldn’t experience much of an impact from the change in venue on his strikeout and walk rates. Of course, the Athletics are┬áhoping that his walk rate recovers, as it hit a career low this season.

Kauffman is marginally favorable for singles, which I tend to equate with BABIP. So, I would say that Kauffman inflates BABIP slightly, while the Coliseum just barely favors the pitcher. The doubles park factors are nearly identical and it doesn’t appear that Butler is going to ever again come anywhere close to his peak doubles years from 2009 to 2011. Butler has managed four triples over his career, despite playing in a park that boosts triples by 24% (remember, these factors are halved to account for the number of home games in a season). So, I will boldly proclaim that the less favorable triples factor will have no effect on his performance.

Finally, we move on to the home run park factors, which are exactly the same. Both parks are tougher for left-handed batters to hit the ball out of. So he’s not going to receive any boost from the park move, which is unfortunate for those hoping for a power rebound. His batted distance peaked in 2012 at 297 feet, then fell a whopping 21 feet to 276 in 2013, before bouncing back a bit to 284 feet this year. Certainly he should have deserved better than a mere 6.9% HR/FB rate. Park switch aside, he should post significantly improved power numbers in 2015.

The Athletics scored the third most runs in the American League this season, while the Royals scored the ninth most. So, he’s clearly moving to a better lineup, which should increase his runs batted in and scored totals. Of course, it’s hard not to figure improvement, given that he combined for just 123 RBI+R this year.

Overall, the park switch is a very slight negative, but small enough to essentially call it neutral. More importantly, he heads to a better lineup, which results in a marginally improved fantasy outlook. Still, he has become nothing more than a replacement level option in shallow mixed leagues.

We hoped you liked reading Billy Butler Heads to the Bay Area by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Stuck in a slump
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Stuck in a slump

I’d be interested to see how this signing affects the rest of the A’s lineup now that they can’t rotate guys in and out of the DH spot. Guys like Vogt, Norris, Jaso, and possibly even Moss look to see their playing time get cut. At the very least this move makes me a little hesitant to pick up the A’s catcher eligible players.

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I’m curious about this too, but it’s probably too early to speculate. Someone in that group could get moved.

Its impossible to guess what Beane will do next, but it seems doubtful that signing Butler is his entire off-season plan.