Billy Butler Ran Into 10 Outs

Last season, Billy Butler ran into 10 outs. If you didn’t know that before, you definitely know that now. And if you’re anything like me, now that you know that, you want to know what happened. Boy have I got the post for you. It’s this post!

I spent an embarrassing amount of time assembling different numbers. It wasn’t until I finished that I realized I didn’t really need them. What the numbers reveal, you already know to be true: Butler is a lousy baserunner. He’s one of the very worst baserunners, of his own time, and of all time. To think, he’s not even 30 for another four weeks. Billy Butler is going to slow down. Prior to slowing down, he’s still been historically bad, by whatever baserunning metrics you favor.

Baserunning success is a function of a few things. There’s speed, of course, but there’s also instincts. Beyond those, there’s coaching, and then there’s plain old luck. You’d figure that, over a career as long as Butler’s, the luck would basically even out. We always assume this to be true, and we’ll work with it. So there are a few reasons why Butler has been bad. It’s left him as a completely one-dimensional player, and it’s evident that player isn’t particularly valuable unless the bat is terrific. Butler can still hit the ball hard, and that’s good, because he desperately needs to.

To get back to the point: Butler ran into 10 outs last year. This is an unfamiliar statistic, so let me give you some context. The numbers come from Baseball-Reference, and they don’t include failed steals. Jose Altuve ran into an incredible 19 outs, which was the highest total in the league. Dexter Fowler ran into 13 outs. Butler’s total of 10 outs was higher than everyone, save for 11 players. So Butler’s way up there for a guy who shouldn’t be taking many chances. In fact, consider this: Butler was on first for 27 singles, he was on second for 17 singles, and he was on first for 15 doubles. Just seven times, or 12%, did he advance the extra base. The overall league average was 39%. Butler ran into more outs than he took extra bases. Just about nobody does that.

Butler did the same thing in 2014, by a margin of six to five. So.

The 10 outs — how did they happen? How did Billy Butler arrive at such a total? I was curious enough to go to the video. Below is everything that I found.

Out No. 1

Butler didn’t run into his first of the 10 outs until May 31, which means he did an awful lot in about four months, but this is a promising start, as Butler’s dignity goes. Because, as you see, Butler didn’t really run into anything. Butler hardly moved. That’s not a joke at the expense of Butler’s speed. He was just put in a lousy situation. You could argue, I guess, that Butler could’ve read the ball better, or maybe you could argue Butler could’ve attempted a more evasive maneuver, but ultimately, Butler was on first when Josh Reddick hit a screaming liner…to first. The best players get doubled up on these. Bad luck!

Out No. 2

This one isn’t bad luck. I don’t know what to blame here — I’m leaning toward just blaming Butler’s speed, because I don’t think his instincts were that bad. He was on second, and the ball was hit on the ground behind him. The hitter did his job, or at least he would’ve done his job if the runner were anyone other than who he was. Nine times out of 10, this is a productive out, but Jose Iglesias made the heads-up decision to go for the lead runner because he recognized the lead runner’s identity. Iglesias has seen plenty of Butler in his career, and this shows good awareness. Or does it? Would you and I have known to do the same thing? I don’t know how to answer that. But Butler was out by a damn mile. This gets more amazing every time I watch it.

Out No. 3

Goal: try to score from third base on contact.

Prep: assess the situation before a play develops.

Assessment: ask yourself the following questions:

Question No. 1: are you Billy Butler?

Question No. 2: there is no second question.

Determination: if the answer to question No. 1 is yes, do not try to score from third base on contact.

Out No. 4

In Butler’s defense, this took an accurate throw. If the throw is off-line, Butler reaches home safely, and everyone’s thrilled. But, I mean, I didn’t manipulate this screenshot. The catcher has the ball, here, and Butler is nowhere to be seen.

butler-orioles

So maybe it wasn’t worth the risk. Even with two outs, maybe it wasn’t worth the risk. Here’s a fun fact: Butler scored three times from second on a single, out of 17 opportunities. Lorenzo Cain scored 21 times out of 21 opportunities. This play is more of a coin flip, but I don’t know how a third-base coach ever feels confident waving Billy Butler around.

Out No. 5

Oh no. This is one of those in-betweens. It would’ve looked weird if Butler just stopped at first, because everything about this play screamed “two bases.” Butler would’ve stopped there, and then the ball wouldn’t have arrived at the infield for three or four seconds, and during that gap, fans would wonder why Butler didn’t stretch. It would’ve felt like enough time to stretch. This is the argument against stretching. Had Butler stopped, he might’ve felt uncomfortable for three seconds, but better to feel uncomfortable on base than uncomfortable off it.

Out No. 6

Hey, it happened again! Another out you can’t pin on Butler. Maybe it’s better this way. The A’s can just heap the bad baserunning luck on Butler, because he’s already so far in the red it doesn’t make any difference. If you have to beat anything, beat the dead horse. That way no one gets hurt.

Out No. 7

This is one of the dumbest double plays I’ve ever seen. Now, no matter what, off the bat, this was likely to be a double play. The bases were loaded with nobody out, and the ball was hit sharply to third. When the ball hit the ground, everybody was supposed to run. I have absolutely no idea why Butler tried to return to third. Then, I have absolutely no idea why Butler reversed course and tried to score. Off the bat, you’d think out at home, and out at first. 5-2-3 double play, leaving runners on second and third. Butler didn’t go, however, so the third baseman stepped on third and threw to first. Never mind that the throw was wild — forget about that. This was then going to be a 5-3 double play, also leaving runners on second and third. When the third baseman threw the ball, Butler could’ve stayed put. He could’ve stayed put! What was he doing! Based on his body language, I think he knew he didn’t know what he was doing.

Inexplicable. It’s the kind of inexplicable that makes me think I’m just missing something obvious. Because, you know, a trained professional baseball player shouldn’t do anything that dumb. But sometimes even really good players get lazily picked off, or they forget how many outs there are in an inning. I guess this is sort of like that? It seems dumber, but at least Butler got exercise.

Out No. 8

Holy shit.

Here’s something I put together. It’s the play above, timed to sync with a Dee Gordon hustle double.

Everything in baseball happens pretty fast. Differences between extremes are still mostly small, and the difference here is about 1.7 seconds. If you count 1.7 seconds out loud, it seems like nothing. You might be able to lift 300 pounds off the ground for 1.7 seconds. You’re constantly holding your breath for well more than 1.7 seconds. Sometimes your heart doesn’t beat for 1.7 seconds. You could probably stand the company of Carlos Mencia for 1.7 seconds. But in baseball terms, 1.7 seconds is an eternity. The slowest pitches make it from the mound to the catcher in a third as long. From contact to the bag, Gordon’s double took him 7.4 seconds. Butler came in a hair over 9.1. (Butler was out.) Butler was 23% slower. Oakland announcers were critical of Butler’s route as he rounded first. I’m perfectly happy to blame that. It seems like there would be a few things to blame.

Out No. 9

Two outs, and the ball was hit 380 feet. When there are two outs, and the ball is hit 380 feet, you should be able to score from first. It shouldn’t even be a question. This was probably the thought going through the head of the third-base coach — “of course I’m going to wave the runner, because in this circumstance, you always wave the runner.” But! I can think of one circumstance in which you might not want to wave the runner.

butler-astros

Look at Butler’s teammate on the other side of home. Look at him in the screenshot. Then look at him in the video, as Butler is tagged without sliding. This is what I live for. I didn’t know that a few hours ago, but now my very soul feels fuller.

Out No. 10

Haven’t we been over this? This was at the very end of the season, so there’s an argument that nothing mattered, but when you’re Billy Butler, and you’re on third base, there’s no such thing as the contact play. Or, there shouldn’t be. This ball was hit too softly to get turned for two, so there was no reason for Butler to move. I would’ve been fine with him bluffing — I would’ve applauded him bluffing — to maybe draw a bad throw, but this shows bad situational awareness. Or maybe it shows bad personal-skillset awareness. It shows some kind of bad awareness. Butler, at least, could laugh about it, which now that I think about it is sort of troubling.

butler-mariners

I don’t know what it’s like in there. I don’t want to accuse Butler of not taking his job seriously. There’s no way for me to know that, and I don’t want to criticize for the sake of being critical. I don’t want to pile on and say that Butler is a stupid baserunner. It’s possible, though, he hasn’t paid enough attention to baserunning lessons, because he knows it’ll never be a strength. That might reflect more on the coaches. Now I’m just speculating, to no end. You don’t often see runners laughing after making bad outs, is the point. I guess at the end of the season, it’s just insignificant. And maybe Butler will know better for next time. Keep your eye out for potential contact plays in 2016. Butler better keep his ass still.

We’ve got 10 outs. Two were just line-drive bad luck. There was a good throw home in there. There was also slow running, and there were poor decisions. Billy Butler ran into 10 outs. I’ll be damned.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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alekhine8
6 years ago

Number five is amazing – it feels like the ball is rolling around down there for eternity. He looks like he got out of the box a little .. slow .. but seemed to be running as fast as Billy Butler permits himself to run from first to second.