"I’ve been really hot, I’ve been known to stay on hot streaks for an extended amount of time. Unfortunately, the way to cool a hot hitter off is to not give him at-bats. Hopefully that’s not what happens. There’s nothing I can do about that."
- Billy Butler, KC Star, 5/8/2014
Billy Butler's slashline from April 29th to May 4th: 6 games played, 381avg/391obp/610slg, 8 for 21, 2 doubles/1 homer.
In a way, it seems like a quote that is saying "don't say you weren't warned, but". After all, in the week before April 29th, Butler hit 200/250/267, good for 6 hits in 30 at-bats, 2 walks, and 2 doubles. The combined 2 week total from April 21st to May 4th is 275/309/412.
It very well could be a thing where either you're being warned to not expect much from a 4 game series in Seattle where at least two of the pitchers (Hisashi Iwakuma, Roenis Elias) are groundball pitchers and the park is not hitter friendly. Or it could be something where Butler will get a few hits and it can be declared a successful weekend.
Fortunately(?) we have previous examples of Butler being a NL park pinch hitter, so we can compare how Butler hit before and after getting to be an NL pinch hitter for multiple days in a series.
Since Ned Yost was hired, Butler has started in 620 of 646 Royals games and appeared in 638 of 646 Royals games. (In fact, barring any sudden off days, Butler will have the Royals record for most consecutive games on Monday the 19th, Butler has appeared in 296 consecutive games, Johnny Damon appeared in 305 in a row, neither started every game of their streaks. If you don't like a DH holding that streak, remember, Hal McRae probably held the record for 20+ years)
So anyways... in the 26 games without Butler starting, 7 occurred in NL parks in 2011, 4 occurred in NL parks in 2012, 5 occurred in NL parks in 2013, and 3 occurred in NL parks in 2014. A total of 19 times over 4 years. (if you were curious, the other 7 times included 2 starts due to offdays in June/July 2010, 2 starts missed due to hand inflammation in 2010, 1 start missed due to a left hand contusion in September 2010, 1 start missed due to an offday in May 2011, and 1 start missed due to the flu in September 2011. Billy Butler hasn't had a normal offday in an AL park in around 3 years.)
19 NL park games, let's see how he was hitting, and how he hit after the end of the NL series.
From June 1st to June 16th, 2011, Butler was hitting 333/446/556 with 3 doubles/3 homers in 54 AB. He was hitting 301/405/442 on the year
Then he went to St. Louis, getting 1 start in 3 games and going 2 for 6 for the weekend.
In the 6 game homestand afterwards, he hit 318/400/364, 7 for 22 with a double and hits in every game.
Then the Royals went to San Diego, Where Butler started once and went 0 for 6, ending his "1 hit in every series" streak that was beloved by Royals commentators. Follow that up with a series in Colorado where Butler batted twice in 3 games. Overall, 1 for 8 with a double.
In the 2 weeks after the Colorado series from July 5th to July 17th, Butler hit 205/255/250 with 9 hits in 44 AB and 2 doubles. Shortly afterwards Butler went to Fenway, went 9 for 19, and closed the year with 20 doubles/12 homers in his last 60 games.
Case study 1: Shows that, yeah.. Butler slumped hard after a 15 game stretch where he made 8 starts (with 6 of 8 starts at Kauffman)
Moving to 2012..
In the 15 games preceding the Royals trip to Pittsburgh, Butler was hitting 293/349/466 with 1 double and 3 homers in 58 AB. He was hitting 296/355/507 for the year.
Butler started twice in Pittsburgh, going 2 for 8, then pinch hit in the 3rd game. Before returning to the cozy confines of the AL where he went 4 for 10 v. the Brewers.
Then the Royals went to St. Louis. Ned acknowledged the failure of the Hosmer in RF experiment, and Butler pinch hit twice in 3 games, while Hosmer (hitting in the 220s and OPSing in the 660s) got 3 starts. Butler went 1 for 2 with a pinch hit home run off of Jason Motte (the only pinch hit homer in his career). Then Butler got 3 starts v. the Astros in Houston. Overall from June 8th to June 20th, he hit 323/432/516, 10 for 31 with 2 homers.
In the 2 weeks after the Houston series: Butler hit 226/339/415. 12 for 53 with 1 double and 3 homers from June 22nd to July 5th.
Case study 2: Slightly inconclusive. Butler slumped after ending NL play, but he made his most starts in NL parks post-Hosmer purely because of Hosmer's struggles that year. It wasn't entirely a work stoppage.
Thanks to the inspired idea of moving the Astros to the AL for some reason, we have all year interleague. Whoo. Last year, the Royals went to NL parks for 4 series of 10 games.
The first series was games 4-5-6 of the year. Not particularly enough to gather a before/after sample size. Butler went 1 for 11 in Chicago, pinch hit in game 4, started game 5 and went 1 for 4, and started game 6, going 2 for 4 with 7 RBI and a Grand Slam.
In-between the Philadelphia and Atlanta series, he hit 313/542/563 on a homestand, going 5 for 16 with a double, a homer, a strikeout and 7 walks. Then Butler went 0 for 5 in Atlanta, pinch-hitting in game 1 and starting game 2. In the 2 weeks afterwards, he hit 294/403/431 with 15 hits, 4 doubles and a homer from April 20th to May 6th.
Next visit to an NL park was late May during the deep thaw era of the Royals offense. Butler was hitting 358/443/491 from May 13th to 28th with 19 hits, 4 doubles and a homer. Butler started game 1 and pinch hit in game 2, going 0 for 5.
Then in the 2 weeks after that? he hit 300/429/400, 12 for 40 with 4 doubles.
The Royals avoided the NL until early August where they visited Citi Field. In the 2 weeks before that series, Butler hit 327/393/429 with 16 hits, 2 doubles, 1 homer (from July 19th to August 1st). Butler started once and pinch hit twice, going 0 for 5. Then in the 2 weeks afterwards? 379/455/603, 22 for 58 with 4 doubles and 3 homers.
In 2013? the results show that going to NL parks didn't exactly slow Butler down, with the caveat that he also started a game in every series that year. (Also, yes, Butler went hitless in NL parks from April 7th, 2013 in Philadelphia to May 6th, 2014 in San Diego, and was hitless as a pinch hitter from the Motte home run to this Tuesday)
Does putting Butler on pinch-hitting duty for 3 days precede Butler not hitting much for awhile? In similar circumstances, yes, it might. But that won't factor in the quality of pitching Butler will see from the Mariners, Rockies, and Orioles over the next few weeks.
Judging Butler's impact on the Iwakuma game tonight would be... flawed. Because Iwakuma is a top 30 pitcher in baseball on days when he's average. He's closer to top 10/15 most of the time. Iwakuma's a pretty awesome pitcher, if you were unaware, so not seeing the ball from him was something that even the guys who played in San Diego had problems handling. Iwakuma's stuff is way better than Brandon Maurer's 94mph fastball or Chris Young constantly throwing 86mph fastballs and hoping for flyball outs.
But when you consider it took Butler going 300/342/414 over a period of 18 games to get his average up to 241/296/313.. anything less than a full-throttle hitting spree will be seen as insufficient by people who have already made up their minds on this topic. So good luck Billy, prove your expectations wrong?