What Has Happened To Joey Butler?
When Joey Butler was signed by the Rays, it was such an afterthought we never even wrote it up here. Even when he was called up to replace Steven Souza Jr. the first time the rookie went to the disabled list, we did not write him up. Even when Butler was hitting .347/.373/.529, we didn’t write anything up because the performance was unsustainable.
Little did we know the fall from grace would be this tough to watch.
Since Butler peaked with that slash line on June 13th, he’s hit .194/.295/.265 in nearly the same number of plate appearances he had climbing his way up the mountain. The odd thing with Butler’s indicators are that he has shown improvement in some areas that would normally lead to success for a batter, but most anything would be a statistical decline to the improbable numbers he was putting up during the first six weeks of his promotion.
Butler has tightened up his strike zone from his pre-peak days, but when he does swing these days, he is coming up empty more frequently. He is accepting his walks when pitchers don’t throw him strikes as he has 14 walks during his slump compared to the two walks he had when he was hitting everything thrown at him.
The .474 BABIP was never going to last, but it did take the league a little bit to figure out just exactly how to pitch a guy most teams likely did not have in-depth scouting reports on. Whereas early on, Butler saw pitches out and over the plate, teams soon figured out that he struggles with pitches on the inside, particularly with hard stuff in.
The heat maps below show where pitchers were challenging Butler with hard stuff pre and post peak.
Teams first avoided throwing Butler hard stuff in but are now doing so more regularly and his results have suffered greatly.
|Hard Stuff Pre-Peak||277||.426||.475||.574||.524|
|Hard Stuff Post-Peak||255||.159||.327||.227||.194|
Butler has continued to play most days despite his struggles, and his poor performance of late has been more obvious as the team struggles to score runs. Butler has come to the plate with runners in scoring position 30 times since peaking on June 13th and has three hits – all singles – and has driven in four runs while stranding 31 baserunners in scoring position.
Today, Kevin Cash hesitated to pinch-hit for Butler in the 7th inning with bases loaded and two outs in at bat that Butler struck out while chasing three pitches out of the zone. Cash did not hesitate to pinch hit for Butler in the 9th inning with John Jaso, who doubled off the wall but never scored.
Butler’s time with the club is likely coming to an end once Desmond Jennings is recalled in the coming days. Butler was just as much a part of the improbable run of success the team had in June as much as he has been a part of the struggles in recent weeks. Still, it was one hell of a six week run for the minor league journeyman.