The Butler Did It

25 Jun

Greetings all!  mini_tb here.  First, happy birthday to Seth!  Second, here’s a link to Seth’s post at John Sickels’ great prospect site, minorleagueball.com.  Look around a bit, and you might see what other people are saying about Wilson Ramos.

After a rough series against the Brewers, let’s hope the Twins can get some good starting pitching in the pitching friendly confines of Citi Field against the surprisingly good Oliver Perez-less New York Mets.  I could go on about how the Tigers and Sox are right with the Twins in the standings, but I just do not feel like going into detail about that.

I was reading about Derek Jeter‘s double play hitting on fangraphs.com the other day, and that led me to look up how some of the Twins’ hitters rate.  While looking at the Twins’ players, I stumbled on a surprising name in the top 1,000 career double play totals.  More on that later…

For years it seems like we’ve been watching Twins’ rallies fall victim to the dreaded double play.  Just based on memory, it has always seemed like Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, and Michael Cuddyer had a unique ability to kill rallies by hitting into the infamous Twin killing.  (Insert groan at bad pun here)  I decided to take a look at some of the Twins’ players numbers and see how they stack up against others.  I will start by looking at the following Twins players in the top 1,000 all time:

  • Justin Morneau, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, and Jim Thome

Note: Double play stats from baseball-reference.com


Justin Morneau

  • Age 29
  • 783rd all time
  • 83 double plays gounded into (GDP)
  • 3,899 Plate appearances (PA)
  • 1 GDP: 46.98 PA
  • GDP rate: 10% (league average is 11%)
  • Tied with: Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and former Twin Mike Redmond

Jacque Jones

  • Age 35
  • 461st all time
  • 116 double plays gounded into
  • 4,989 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP: 43.01 PA – With how often he hit the ball on the ground, that surprises me
  • GDP rate: 13%
  • Tied with Chuck Knoblauch and Luis Castillo

Torii Hunter

  • Age 34
  • 181st all time
  • 167 double plays gounded into (GDP)
  • 6,304 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP: 37.75 PA
  • GDP rate: 14%
  • Tied with Adrian Beltre, Ozzie Smith, Garry Templeton

Side note: it’s interesting that Smith and Templeton tied each other because they were actually traded for each other early in their careers.

Orlando Hudson

  • Age 32
  • 446th all time
  • 118 double plays gounded into
  • 4,368 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP: 37.02 PA
  • GDP rate: 14%
  • Tied with former 2 way star and recent Chipper Jones criticizer Brian Jordan and some guy named Peanuts Lowrey

Joe Mauer

  • Age 27
  • 677th all time
  • 93 double plays gounded into
  • 3,263 Plate appearances
  • That 1 GDP: 35.09 PA
  • GDP rate: 14%
  • Tied with Hall of Famer and fellow catcher Gabby Hartnett and Matt Holliday

Michael Cuddyer

  • Age 31
  • 516th all time
  • 109 double plays gounded into
  • 3,590 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP: 32.94 PA
  • GDP rate: 15%
  • Tied with Carlos Beltran, the great Tony Batista, and Hall of Famer Leo Durocher

Jim Thome

  • Age 39
  • 259th all time
  • 149 double plays gounded into
  • 9,595 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP: 64.40 PA
  • GDP rate: 8%
  • Tied with Fred Lynn and Tony Armas

Just who is the all time leader you ask?  None other than Cal Ripken, Jr.!  The active career leader is Pudge Rodriguez, and he is “just” 30 GDP behind Ripken.

Cal Ripken, Jr.

  • Retired in 2001 at age 41
  • 1st all time
  • 350 double plays gounded into
  • 12,883 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP: 36.81 PA
  • GDP rate: 13%

Don’t look now, but Ripken may have some future competition for his GDP crown.

Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals

  • Age 24
  • 991st all time
  • 70 double plays gounded into
  • 1,821 Plate appearances
  • 1 GDP:26.01 PA
  • GDP rate: 19%
  • Tied with Craig Monroe and Mike Tyson (this Mike Tyson played from 1972-1981 with a career OPS+ of 69)

Obviously we cannot make any assumptions on what Billy Butler will do for the rest of his career, but right now we can say he is on pace to tie Ripken’s record in about 9103 plate appearances.  That’s 3,780 plate appearances quicker!

Here are Billy Butler’s career GDP numbers:

  • 2007: 8 GDP in 360 PA, (1 GDP:45 PA), GDP 11% of his eligible opportunities
  • 2008: 23 GDP in 478 PA (1 GDP:20.78 PA), GDP 25% of his eligible opportunities
  • 2009: 20 GDP in 672 PA (1 GDP:33.6 PA), GDP 15% of his eligible opportunities
  • 2010: 19 GDP in 311 PA (1 GDP:16.37 PA), GDP 28% of his eligible opportunities

Based on these small samples, his DP numbers are all over the place, so it’s tough to draw too much of a conclusion from them other than Butler has beaten Ripken’s career GDP average in 3 of his first 4 seasons, and we’re working with small sample sizes that can obviously vary from year to year.

First of all, I really like Billy Butler.  He is a fine young player, who, in all likelihood, will continue to improve .  It’s only his second full season in the Majors, and he is posting an OPS+ of 132 in his age 24 season with approximately 3 season’s worth of at bats under his belt.

The all time record for GDP in a season is held by Jim Rice.  He grounded into 36 double plays in 1984, or 1 GDP every 19.67 PA.  In that season, Rice grounded into a double play in “just” 18% of his 202 opportunities.  Since we are around the halfway mark of the season, you can double Butler’s GDP number and realize that he could break Rice’s record this year.  You would also think that his 28% GDP rate should regress at least a bit closer to the norm by season’s end.

As I said before, Butler is a really good young player.  However, we still have this question: why all the double plays?

Butler is striking out about 32% less this year compared to 2009, and his walk percentage is down by about 7%.  That means he’s been putting far more balls in play in 2010 compared to 2009, which would help increase his double play opportunities, assuming a similar amount of chances to do so.

Butler’s line drive percentage is up in 2010, and he also has the lowest Ground Ball:Fly Ball ratio of his career, 5.2% lower than 2009, so that would likely support a decrease in double plays.  However, even his improved rate is still about 14% more ground ball heavy than league average (.90 vs .79).  Combine that with being a slow runner and putting considerably more balls in play, and that is likely going to result in some high double play numbers.

What kind of conclusion can we draw from this?  We can safely say that Butler will continue to be prone to double plays as long as he’s a slow running, ground ball hitter.  We can also say that we have yet to see the finished product, but at this point of his career, now about 3 seasons worth of at bats spread over 4 seasons, there is no doubting that Billy Butler has been a rather prodigious double play hitter.  Will this continue into the future?  Trading David Dejesus and his gaudy .394 OBP while continuing to bat established out makers Scott Podsednik and Jason Kendall in front of Butler just might help to reduce Butler’s double play opportunities.


Anyhoo, I hope some of you were able to make it to the end of the post and were able to stay awake.  Feel free to leave comments about this posting or anything else, or just wish Seth a happy birthday.  Everyone have a safe and enjoyable weekend!!

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