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Billy Butler's big test coming up

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The next four games could spell the end for Billy Butler as an Oakland Athletic, or a new beginning.

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The next four Oakland A's games could be Billy Butler's last chance to perform in the role he has been consigned to, the platoon DH/first baseman against left-handed pitching. He must hit the hell out of the ball over the next four games to justify his continued spot on the roster, or else his anti-speed and lack of defensive versatility must give way to Max Muncy right away and to Renato Nunez in time as Oakland's top hitters in Triple-A.

After 19 consecutive games facing right-handed starting pitchers, 26 of their last 27, and 31 of their last 33, the Oakland A's are scheduled to face four consecutive left-handers: Matt Moore, Derek Holland, Cole Hamels, and Martin Perez. Hamels and Perez have been performing the best of the four, though neither are of the same caliber as the White Sox Cy Young candidates the A's flailed against in the opening week, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

After those four games is a minimum of four series without facing a southpaw. First, the Yankees are scheduled to start the four right-handers they have remaining after lefty CC Sabathia went on the disabled list. Second, Oakland will miss Seattle's Wade Miley after he pitches on Tuesday and Sunday. Third and forth, neither Detroit nor Minnesota have a left-hander in their rotation.

So far against left-handers, Butler owns a .292/.292/.458 batting line in 24 plate appearances. There are 181 right-handed or switch-hitting batters that have taken at least 20 plate appearances against a left-handed pitcher, and Butler's 106 wRC+ ranks 89th of 181. That's just not good enough for a player without much of a position.

If he can move up that leaderboard, his continued presence might be justified for lack of a clearly better option. But if he performs poorly, that has to be it. Max Muncy must be allowed to jump up to give the A's another left-handed option off the bench as the A's head into a stretch of right-handed starters while Renato Nunez continues to prepare to jump into the majors as soon as an injury or a trade opens a place for him.