Billy Butler is closing in on the all-time record for double plays

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Royals first baseman Billy Butler is having a very nice season, hitting .308/.379/.456 with 46 extra-base hits and nearly as many walks (53) as strikeouts (56) as a 24-year-old, but he’s also closing in on a dubious record.
Butler has grounded into 26 double plays, which is the most in baseball this season, ties the Royals’ franchise record, and puts him on pace to come up just short of the all-time record of 36 by Jim Rice in 1984. Rice also holds the second spot on the list with 35 double plays in 1985, and right now Butler is on pace for 34.
Butler offered a good explanation when asked about his DP total:

You hit a lot of hard balls on the ground and you don’t run very well. It’s a bad combination. It’s inevitable. My strikeouts are down, so I’m getting more contact, so the odds are higher for that. It’s one of those things that’s going to happen. Double plays are part of the game.

Many people assume that double plays come primarily from someone being a slow runner, but in reality that’s merely one factor. For instance, Jim Thome has been one of the slowest players in baseball for 20 years now, yet has grounded into just 9.5 double plays per 150 games.
Thome is slow, but he also puts very few balls in play thanks to tons of homers, walks, and strikeouts, and when he does put the ball in play it’s in the air a very high percentage of the time. Butler, on the other hand, compounds his lack of speed with a low strikeout rate that leads to lots of balls in play and has one of the league’s highest ground-ball rates. He’s also right-handed, which is a little icing on the double play cake.
Butler is still having a good year despite all the double plays, but they do make his production less valuable than it initially appears. He’s grounded into 15 more double plays than the average hitter would in his 523 plate appearances, and if you take those 15 “extra” outs and subtract them from his .308 batting average and .379 on-base percentage it would leave him hitting .275 with a .349 OBP instead.
The lesson here? As always, Jim Rice shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.