Billy Butler is a 6-foot-1, 240-pound first baseman who should probably be a designated hitter, could best be described as “lumbering,” and has a grand total of one stolen base in 533 games. Yet for some reason the Royals are convinced he should be running more this season.
Butler stole a base in yesterday’s game against the Rangers and said afterward that manager Ned Yost “has pretty much turned us loose” as base-stealers.
Dick Kaegel of MLB.com writes that “Yost figures that Butler could get up to 10 steals a season by picking his spots,” which is sort of hilarious for a guy who has three steals in his last 856 games dating back to the minors and grounded into 32 double plays last season for the third-highest total in baseball history.
Kansas City has an incredible amount of young talent coming up through the farm system and has a chance to emerge as long-term contenders relatively soon, but for now the Royals are going to be a very, very bad team and Yost trying to make base-stealers out of everyone on the roster isn’t going to help.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.