Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler has sat four straight days and could be relegated to facing only lefties, Jane Lee of MLB.com writes. Manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t commit to putting Butler back in the lineup Monday against Angels righty Nick Tropeano, per Lee, saying that he’ll definitely play Tuesday when the A’s deal with lefty Hector Santiago. Butler, whom the A’s signed to a three-year, $30MM contract in November 2014, has batted just .262/.323/.386 since the beginning of the ’14 campaign and been the least valuable player in baseball by the standards of fWAR during that time frame. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has been vastly superior against lefties than right-handers historically, though that wasn’t the case last season. So far this year, nine of Butler’s 10 plate appearances have come versus southpaws.
Here’s more from MLB’s West divisions:
- Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs, who’s on the comeback from August 2014 Tommy John surgery, made his 2016 debut for Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday. The 24-year-old threw 42 pitches over three innings, struck out one and allowed a run on three hits (two bunt singles) and two walks, according to Taylor Blake Ward of InsideTheHalos.com. Skaggs’ fastball sat in the 91-93 mph range, which is right in line with his 2014 average of 92 mph (Twitter links). That year, Skaggs tossed 113 innings of 4.30 ERA ball for the Angels to go along with a 6.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9. ERA estimators like FIP (3.55) and xFIP (3.65) indicated that Skaggs deserved a better fate with respect to results.
- The Angels entered Sunday having applied defensive shifts more than any team in the majors (79 times over five games), according to data from Fangraphs (link via Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com). Their 15.8 shifts per game represents a marked increase for a team that was around the middle of the pack in shifting over the previous four seasons. First-year general manager Billy Eppler is largely behind the Halos’ change in philosophy, having installed an analytics team that judges when the team should employ the shift, per Gonzalez.
- The Rockies will explore further ways to make Coors Field more friendly to pitchers, owner Dick Monfort told Nick Groke of the Denver Post. “[W]e’re going to continue to find ways to make it not so offensive a park,” said Monforto. “We all know it’s the most offensive park in baseball. Part of that, there’s nothing we can do about it. But if there are things we can do to take some of the offense away from it, that’s what we should try to do.” The Rockies raised the wall in right-center field by eight feet, nine inches prior to the season and also added height to the wall straight down the left-field line. Those changes didn’t halt offensive production during the first series of the year at Coors Field, however, with Colorado and San Diego amassing 47 runs in three contests.