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Billy Butler and Alex Gordon in 2009

While the state of the Royal pitching staff looks the best it has in over a decade going into next season, the prospects for the offense remain murky. Although the Royals have something of a "core" in place, much of that core has topped out at being merely adequate, and barring another Aviles-like revelation or a confluence of career years from multiple players (which does sometimes happen), it'll be up to Alex Gordon and Billy Butler to drive the offense to the next level.

So can they do it?

I've had the opportunity to take a sneak peek at the Bill James projections for 2009 and am saddened to report that at least one computer model sees more of the same:

Butler's Actual 2008 478 .275 .324 .400 22 11
Butler's Projected 2009 563 .295 .357 .460 35 18

You could label this, optimistically, a mild breakout I suppose, although considering Butler will provide no defense and baserunning (factors which can be over-rated, to be sure) it's not a thrilling line. Essentially, in the view of James's system, he'll see marginal improvement in most areas, but no more. Sure, a sixty point jump in SLG would be nice, but that's dependent on Butler hitting .295 as well, which might not happen given Butler's size and the natural vagaries of BA. Butler's now accumulated 838 big league plate appearances, so there's not much space for a pure numbers-based projection to graph instant improvement.

Alex Gordon's Actual 2008 571 .260 .351 .432 35 16
Alex Gordon's Projected 2009 535 .273 .358 .467 40 20


Something of a strange projection here, with Gordon seeing a mild (I need synonyms for this word) power spike, albeit one somewhat negated by some lost playing time. Alex racked up 601 PAs in '07 and 571 in '08, so perhaps there's some rudimentary logic in just knocking him down another 30 or so for '09. Nevertheless, the rate stats are still less than thrilling.

The impossible dream, a Royal slugging .500.

You can order the 2009 Bill James Handbook here.