Sep 25, 2013, 1:48 PM EDT
You know that dream where you are running and running but are not actually getting anywhere. I know people have all sorts of theories about this dream and what it means. Some say it indicates that you have too many things going in your life and can’t quite keep up. Some say it’s the body reacting to being in a sleep state. Some say it doesn’t have any specific meaning at all, but it just an outlet for your brain.
I have come to believe that dream is simply about Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler.
Billy Butler is slow. Spectacularly slow. It is in his nature. Butler came up when he was 21 years old, a bit of a prodigy when it came to hitting a baseball, and he promptly posted a 108 OPS+. He could hit right away — I predicted from Day 1 that he would win a batting title someday, and I still think he will. But he was spectacularly slow even then, even as a kid. In 2009, he hit .301 with 51 doubles. He was spectacularly slow. The next year he hit .318/.388/.469. He was spectacularly slow. Now, at age 27, he’s an established guy, an All-Star, a lifetime .298 hitter with more than 1,000 career hits an a lifetime 122 OPS+. He remains spectacularly slow.
I have long said that the slowest measurement known to man is a “Molina” and that all players can be measured against it. It’s sort of the opposite of the speed of light — the theory goes that nothing can go faster than the speed of light and so it can be a constant in formulas like the classic E=MC2. Well, I have long believed that nothing on earth moves slower than a Molina — Bengie, specifically, but none of the Molinas are exactly Usain Bolt — and so every player can be measured by Molinas. Jacoby Ellsbury, for instance, is 584,372 Molinas. Meanwhile, someone slow like Paul Konerko is closer to 1.21 Molinas.
One theory about the speed of light is that if anything COULD move faster, it would actually go backward in time. My scientific theory is that anything that moves slower than a Molina would actually stop time or, at least, hit into many double plays.
Billy Butler moves slower than a Molina. It’s part of his enormous charm. There are numbers that show his ultrasonic lead-footedness. He has hit one triple since Sept. 1, 2009. He has hit into more double plays than any player over the last five seasons. He has stolen five bases in his career. Among players with more than 4,000 plate appearances only nine players — among them the legendarily slow Gus Triandos, Cecil Fielder, Dick Stuart, Victor Martinez and, of course, Bengie Molina — have stolen fewer bases.
But more than the statistics, there is the extraordinary joy of watching Billy Butler play baseball. His running is only part of it. Butler is listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds and it’s possible that both numbers are exaggerated to the good (more on this in a minute). His uniform pant legs seem about four sizes too big, so that the bottoms bunch up around his shoes and it looks like he is wearing a hand me down from a much older brother. I remember when Billy came up to the big leagues, the other guys on the team gave him a pretty hard time because of his size and age and body type ad speed and because Billy is just a good-hearted lug who commands that sort of ribbing. Anyway, he was taking some pretty decent abuse when someone told him the only comeback he would ever need for such situations.
“Yeah,” Billy was told to say, “but I can hit.”
He can hit, boy. He has a wide stance and perfect balance and his batting swing is absolutely pure. He steps back with his left leg then steps in, utterly in sync, like a dance step, and his eyes lock in on the ball, and his bat rips through the zone, and it’s a thing of beauty. The best word for that swing is gorgeous. Only Robinson Cano has hit more doubles than Butler the last five seasons, and you know Billy ain’t legging any of those out. The man crunches line drives into gaps and smashes shots down the third base line and launches balls off the wall. For him they are doubles. For almost anyone else, some would be triples.
And he runs. You can feel the ground move. There has never really been any question about Butler’s effort. He doesn’t loaf like MannyBManny. He simply moves his legs and his body doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like some kind of magic trick. He will hit a ground ball to short and you will see him start running up the line. Then you will follow the ball to short, follow the throw to first and look back … and Billy’s in the same spot where your eyes left him.
The game has a marvelous history of impossibly slow players. Gus Triandos. Ernie Lombardi. They called Charlie Hickman “Piano Legs” and he was considered an especially slow runner — but he hit 91 triples and stole 72 bases in his career so that doesn’t seem to match up. Boog Powell, however, was famously slow as were other Orioles like Elrod Hendricks and Ken Singleton and Richie Dauer. Baltimore manager Earl Weaver didn’t really care about speed. Incidentally, Dauer does not not get enough credit for his slowness — he had 984 hits, only two were triples, and he was caught 13 of the 19 times he tried to steal a base.
Shanty Hogan was a huge, slow guy famous for eating all the time — it was said once, when ordered by John McGraw to lose weigh, Hogan decided instead to buy a suit way too big for him so that it would LOOK like he lost weight. It didn’t work. Hogan, like Billy Butler, was listed at, 6-foot-1, 240 pounds. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think 6-foot-1, 240 pounds is not an actual height and weight, it’s a code for something else. Call it the Da Shanty Code.
Players with 1,000-plus games in big leagues listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds:
– Shanty Hogan.
– Billy Butler
– Bob Hamelin
Willie Mays Aikens is one of the most amazing stories in baseball history. When he was born, the doctor named him after Willie Mays … and he actually made it to the big leagues and hit 20-plus homers three times. Think of the odds of that. And then, think of the odds of that someone being named Willie Mays and him probably being the slowest player in baseball. Willie Mays Aikens was like the opposite of Willie Mays Hayes. He was so slow that when he hit a triple in the 1980 World Series, the reaction in the Kansas City dugout was not joy as much as it was insane laughter.
Anyway, it’s a proud role, being the slowest guy in baseball, and I’ve long though that Billy Butler had that all wrapped up. Then, the other day, John Dewan over at Baseball Info Solutions said that in their research they have been timing runners to first base on ground balls that are potential double plays. He has promised to send over some more detailed information, which I will add to the post, but for now here are the five slowest:
1. Welington Castillo, Cubs, 4.84 seconds
2. Billy Butler, Royals, 4.81 seconds
3. Paul Konerko, White Sox, 4.77 seconds
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, 4.67 seconds
(Tie) Yorvit Torrealba, Rockies, 4.67 seconds
Hmm. I’ve got to see the Welington Castillo character run.
Addendum: Great add from BR Blair. He tweeted: “4.84 seconds over 90 feet … linear extrapolation says that’s a 6.45 forty.” Could you imagine looking up any prospect in the NFL and seeing something like, “Strong player and has a great attitude. One drawback is that he runs a 6.5 forty.”
Oct 26, 2014, 1:05 AM EDT
Some quick notes from Saturday’s Game 4.
Oct 26, 2014, 12:33 AM EDT
50 Cent should take some pitching lessons from Mo’ne Davis.
Oct 26, 2014, 12:09 AM EDT
The Giants scored 10 unanswered runs against the Royals en route to an 11-4 win in Game 4 of the World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2 going into Sunday’s Game 5.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt came through for the Giants in the bottom of the sixth to put the Giants up 7-4 over the Royals going into the seventh inning.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:39 PM EDT
The Giants rallied against Jason Vargas and the Royals’ bullpen to tie Game 4 of the World Series at 4-4.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
Joe Maddon may not manage in 2015 as he wants to wait for the right opportunity to take over a new team.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
The Royals rallied and now lead the Giants 4-1 in Game 4 of the World Series.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Montreal will host some more spring training games next year with the Blue Jays taking on the Reds.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
The Giants took a 1-0 lead over the Royals in the first inning thanks to Gregor Blanco’s speed.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
Are the Giants using outside help to slow down the Royals’ running game?
Oct 25, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton are your winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award.
Oct 25, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed that Jake Peavy will start Game 6 and Tim Hudson will start Game 7 if the World Series extends that far.
Oct 25, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Mo’ne Davis will throw out the first pitch before the start of Game 4 of the World Series between the Royals and Giants on Saturday night.
Oct 25, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
This is the second hernia surgery in the back-end of the Mets’ bullpen since the end of the season, as closer Jenrry Mejia had his earlier this month.
Oct 25, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
Jason Vargas vs. Ryan Vogelsong.
Oct 25, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
Wright is expected to be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks and hopes to avoid surgery.
Oct 25, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
Sternberg has reportedly had discussions “with wealthy Wall Street associates” about moving the Rays to Montreal.
Oct 25, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Set aside a few minutes to watch this.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT
The Pirates also designated right-handers John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
We learned yesterday that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his foot. Everyone was caught off guard by the extent of his injuries.
- Giants rout Royals 11-4 in Game 4 to even up the World Series at 2-2 14
- Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton win the Hank Aaron Award 1
- World Series, Game 4: Royals vs. Giants lineups 1
- Report: Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has discussed moving the team to Montreal 62
- Dave Dombrowski on Miguel Cabrera: “It’s worse than what we ever would have anticipated” 33
- World Series Reset: Can the Giants even things up? 4
- Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead 36
- Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award 4
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays (143)
- Erroneous Narrative Alert: no, the Giants are not a “gritty,” anti-stats organization (122)
- Pedro Martinez has some opinions about who the new “face of baseball” is (112)
- PANTY RAID! Homeland Security agents confiscate unlicensed Kansas City Royals underwear (109)
- The World Series ratings are low. So what? (107)