On Futility: Drew Butera

Much was made of the Twins' lineup yesterday against Atlanta, which featured Nick Punto hitting leadoff, followed by Trevor Plouffe in the 2-hole. With Brendan Harris hitting eighth and Drew Butera batting ninth, the Twins had a run of four hitters who were batting a combined .182. Awful, by any imagination.

Much has been made of Punto's struggles at the plate, of course, and Harris is hitting .160 now and heading for a permanent bench spot. Plouffe is 3-for-23 at the plate in his limited action. But with all this in mind, I want to spare a word for Butera.

Now, very little was expected out of Butera this season. He's with the big club because Jose Morales is still on his way back from an injury (and is hitting just .252 at Rochester), and because Wilson Ramos needs to play more often than he would as a backup catcher, and because Butera's defense is better than either one of those two candidates.

Still, though, Butera is sitting on five major league hits in 39 plate appearances, and is batting .135. That's impressively bad - which of course, got me looking through the historical records. And here's what I found: Butera has a chance to go down in history as one of the five worst-hitting Twins catchers of all time.

Let's run down the current worst five seasons by a Twins catcher, using 40 plate appearances as a baseline.

  1. Danny Ardoin, 2000 - Remember 2000? Ardoin wasn't the only stopgap at catcher that season - Chad Moeller, Marcus Jensen, and Matthew LeCroy all played at least 40 games behind the plate, and not one hit better than .211. Ardoin, though, was the worst; he got four hits in 40 plate appearances for a sparkling .125 average (though somehow he walked eight times, as well.)
  2. Ron Henry, 1964 - Henry played only 42 major league games, split between 1961 and 1964 with the Twins. In 1964, he got five hits in 41 plate appearances and batted .122, though amazingly, he had a double, a triple, and two home runs.
  3. Jerry Zimmerman, 1968 - Zimmerman spent 1962-68 with the Twins, and was mostly valuable for his defense - a good thing, considering he hit .204 for his career. In 1968, he was on his way out; he played in just 24 games, and managed five hits in 50 plate appearances. He not only hit just .111, with only one double, his slugging percentage was an anemic .133.
  4. Orlando Mercado, 1989 - Mercado was almost the definition of a journeyman; he played for eight different teams in eight seasons, including two stops where he played fewer than ten games for a team. In 1989, he hit .296 for Triple-A Portland - but posted just four hits in limited duty with the big club, for a .105 batting average. Given that he was a .199 career hitter in the majors, this is hardly surprising.
  5. Tom Nieto, 1988 - In 1987 and 1988, Nieto played early in the season for the Twins, went to the minors for the bulk of the year, then came back up in September when rosters expanded. He was never a good hitter, batting .205 for his career, but in 1988 he was as close to an automatic out as you're ever likely to see in the big leagues. He went to the plate 62 times for the Twins that year, in which time he managed to reach base six times - four singles, a walk, and a hit by pitch. Given that he also hit into two double plays, he was very close to being responsible for more outs than he had plate appearances, which would be an impressive feat. Nieto's line for the year read .067 / .097 / .067 - surely the worst line we'll ever see.

Butera's gone 0-for-3 in each of his last three games. One more of those will put him at .125 for the season - down in Ardoin territory. If Morales or Ramos eventually replaces him, Butera can take heart - he'll at least go down in the books, in one way or another.

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