Oakland Athletics: Five Factors for a Successful 2016 Season

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4. For Billy Butler, it’s time to shape-up or ship out:

Jun 13, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler (16) in the dugout during the eighth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Angels won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler (16) in the dugout during the eighth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Angels won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Billy Beane took a gamble by signing designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year, $30 million contract during the 2014 offseason. Frankly, it didn’t pan out…

After coming off a down-year with the American League Champion Kansas City Royals, the A’s front office took a chance with the 29-year-old, hoping he would put up similar numbers which resembled that of his 2012 days. Out of the gate, Butler looked sharp in the month of April by collecting 25 hits in 96 plate appearances. Three of those hits came via the long ball, and when the calendar flipped to May, he even had 12 RBI to show for it.

Unfortunately, Butler’s offensive production did not continue over the next four months, but the number of double plays he grounded into (26) did. If you factor in his career-low .323 on-base percentage, infused with his minimal speed attribution, you ultimately have a recipe for disaster, leaving many A’s fans displeased by ‘Country Breakfast’s’ contributions for the green and gold.

According to a recent article on Athletics Nation, titled “Billy Butler’s One Avenue to Redemption”, the topic of discussion is centered around the Florida native’s approach at the plate and what’s working for him thus far. Butler is praised for his quick bat speed, as well as his ability to drive pitches to the gaps. But, to continue to do so, the 2004 first-round pick needs to lay off the off-speed stuff that seamlessly — starts at the knees — causing the designated hitter to rollover to the left-side of the infield, for example.

The best-case scenario for Butler is to be more aggressive at the plate; meaning if he gets a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the dish — or something up in the strike zone — he needs to capitalize. Last season the right-hander posted a decent fly ball percentage (31.5), and if he can improve on this statistic, there’s no reason why we can’t see the same offensive explosion demonstrated in September — a .289 batting average, with six round-trippers and 17 RBI.

However, it’s difficult to predict whether or not Butler will rebound in 2016. There have been several rumors surrounding the six-foot-one, 240-pound veteran in regards to working with a condition coach this offseason. If things translate in his favor, we could see the dependable designated hitter Beane envisioned, with two-years and $20 million remaining on his contract.

If not, it’s time to cut ties Butler. Sure, it might be a hefty price to pay. But, when you’re blocking the likes of up-and-coming prospects such as Matt Olson, Rangel Ravelo, and Renato Nunez from getting a shot, then a decision needs to be made; whether it’s before the All-Star break or not.

Next: Manaea Making a Major League Impact

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