Billy Butler Should Never Play First Base


The acquisition of Billy Butler was huge news when it happened early in the off-season. Signing for $30 million over the next three years, Beane shocked the baseball world with such an aggressive offer. Some of us thought that this was a sign of future strategy and that the Oakland Athletics would have an everyday, dedicated designated hitter on their roster but it was quickly announced that Butler would, in fact, spend some time at first base depending on the platoon situation.

This is a mistake.

Since the 2009 season, Billy Butler has missed a total of 22 games meaning he has played in roughly 98% of the games over the past six seasons. That’s incredible!

Now, though, Billy Butler is turning 29 and coming off of a bit of a regressive year in 2014 (although I’m not terribly concerned by that regression) and is much more likely to miss games due to injury or fatigue and that is why he should stay as far away from playing first base as possible and simply be a designated hitter for 162 games in 2015.

Over the same span (2009-2014) Billy Butler has started 342 games as a position player which is 36% of all the games he’s played in that time frame. Over the past two years, he’s started 42 games as a position player. It is safe to assume that he’s out of practice, out of shape and out of the realm of a positive or, probably, neutral dWAR at this point. So why play him at first ever?

The A’s are not short handed at first base and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Ike Davis and Mark Canha platooning at that position. You also throw in the ability of Nate Freiman and Stephen Vogt (when Josh Phegley is catching) to jump over to the corner from time to time and there’s no real need to have Billy Butler in a defensive position except in the most dire emergency.

This is not intended to diminish Butler’s ability. I’m very excited to have him on the team and want to give him every chance to play in 155+ games this year and to do so, you have to eliminate the likelihood of injury on the field.

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Billy Butler has the ability to be a productive home run hitter (I strongly believe that some time with Bush can bring Butler to the 20+ home run club), as well as bat for average, drive in runs and get on base. Last year, his worst year, saw him with a .271/.323/.379 line which would rank him 1/6/7 on last year’s team. If he can split the difference between 2013 and 2014 next season he’ll be sitting at a .280/.348/.395 line which would rank him 1/2/7 compared to last year’s A’s players.

These numbers are stupid, I know, but they do help to illustrate that there is a fine baseball player in Billy Butler who has the ability to be a great presence in the lineup but who is so needless on the field that playing him at first may do more damage than good, especially in the event of an injury. I have long been an advocate for fewer platoons in the A’s lineup and Billy Butler as a permanent DH is a great place to start.

Next: Five A's we're stoked to see in 2015!