Butler defends his 2013 season: ‘I hit a lot of balls hard … right at people’

Billy Butler expects the entire Royals offense to be improved in 2014, not just him.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After Billy Butler’s All-Star season in 2012, expectations of him soared among Royals fans.

Then came 2013.

While Butler set a career high in walks (79) last season, his power numbers dipped considerably. He dropped from 29 homers in 2012 to 15 last season, his lowest total since 2010. His 82 RBIs also were his lowest since 2010. And his 27 doubles were his lowest since 2008.

On top of that, Butler hit into 28 double plays, his highest since he hit into 32 in 2010.

Butler, however, maintains that he never felt like he was slumping last year. It was just one of those seasons, he says, when the breaks didn’t go his way.


"I’m going to consistently hit anywhere between .290 and .310," he says. "Anything above that, I’m catching breaks and finding holes. I hit a lot of balls hard last year that I hit right at people. I did nothing different last year as a hitter, other than I set a career high in walks.

"I hit balls hard on the ground and sometimes they are double plays. Other times you hit it hard and it’s right through a hole. That’s the reason that seven out of 10 times you fail. You succeed three out of 10 long enough and you’re in the Hall of Fame.

"Sometimes you find holes. In 2012, I found every hole. Last year I hit balls in the gap that they ran down because they were shading me a certain way. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. In 2012, everything was going right."

One way to avoid bad luck is to simply hit balls where they can’t catch them — over the fence. Butler is fully aware of that.

"The key to hitting 30 home runs for the Kansas City Royals is you got to run into them on the road," he says. "I hit 20 home runs on the road in 2012, I believe (actually 18). There are a lot more favorable parks on the road.

"There are lot of holes and a lot of hits in Kauffman Stadium, don’t get me wrong. I’ll say that right there. It’s one of the biggest parks in the league.

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"(But) I definitely have a lot more confidence in a place like Baltimore. I just got to get the ball up in the air there. If they pitch me inside, I can turn and hit a line drive out to left. I can hit it out to every part of that yard. The whole AL East is like that.

"I have the same approach — don’t get me wrong — at home or on the road. It’s just that some balls that go out on the road get caught at home."

Actually, Butler expects the entire Royals offense to have a better year in 2014, not just him. The additions of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante to the top of the order will have a ripple effect for everyone, Butler says.

"Expectations are sky high," he says. "We were 10 games over .500 last year and we added to that team. Offensively, we upgraded.

"I’m excited to hit behind Aoki and Infante and Hoz (Eric Hosmer). The top six guys in the lineup … we’re going to be pretty tough. I feel like we got a lineup now with the top six that can stack up with anyone in the league. Aoki is a good on-base guy, and Infante is a true (No. 2) hitter."

We just can’t rely on our pitching and defense so much.

Billy Butler

Butler also will get protection in the lineup with Alex Gordon and Sal Perez hitting behind him.

"That’s never a bad thing," he says. "Alex is very consistent. I’m glad to be sandwiched in there. I’m looking forward to driving in a lot of runs."

After the pitching staff carried the team in 2013, Butler expects the offense to pull its weight this time around.

"Pitching was the talk of last year and it should have been," he says. "(Our pitching) was tops in the American League and in all of baseball in a lot of categories. That’s the reason we were 10 games over .500.

"So we’re looking to take the next step offensively. We’ve got a lot of young players who have gained a lot of experience. We just can’t rely on our pitching and defense so much.

"Our pitching is there and our defense is there, and now we made the upgrades we needed to offensively."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.