Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Who is Drew Butera, and is he hitting .122?
By David Schoenfield
Drew Butera is the Minnesota Twins' backup catcher. Which means, with Joe Mauer out, he's their starting catcher. And, yes, he's hitting .122.
Butera went went 1-for-3 Wednesday afternoon, which actually raised his average to .122. Butera hit .197 in 155 plate appearances last season and he's a career .214 hitter in the minors, so it's not exactly a surprise that he's far below the Mendoza. If you ask me, it's rather embarrassing that the Twins had no other catching option, considering Mauer's injury history. I don't care how good of a game Butera calls, he's not much more than the emergency guy you keep around in Triple-A in case three other catchers get injured.
Anyway, he's almost up to 100 plate appearances, which makes him eligible for a list I just created: Lowest batting average, at least 100 plate appearances, non-pitchers, since 1950.
It turns out 58 players (actually 55 players, since three guys did it twice) have achieved this, "led" by Brandon Larson's .101 mark for the Reds in 2003. He had 104 plate appearances and went 9-for-89. Larson had been Cincinnati's first-round pick in 1997, an infielder out of LSU. He hit nearly 200 home runs in the minor leagues, but never stuck in the majors. But at least he drew 13 walks and hit a home run. The lowest OPS of the 58 seasons belongs to Mike Laga, who hit .130 for the 1988 Cardinals, but with just one home run and two walks, good for a .130/.147/.160 line. Laga spent parts of nine seasons in the majors, mostly as a pinch-hitter, and hit .199. He hit 220 homers in the minors, including 29-plus four times, which is why he kept getting shots.
The three who did this three times: Tom Egan, a backup catcher for the Angels in the late '60s and early '70s; the famed Johnnie LeMaster, a Giants infielder who somehow fashioned a 12-year major league career; and Mike Benjamin, who did it in 1991 with the Giants and 2002 with the Pirates (and just a missed third season in 1992).
The most plate appearances for a player who hit under .150 since 1950? Ray Oyler ... shortstop on the 1968 World Series champion Tigers. He hit .135 in 247 PAs. Brandon Wood hit .146 in 243 PAs last season with the Angels.
We can console Butera a bit by pointing out some good players who achieved this dubious feat, including Darryl Strawberry, Harold Reynolds, Jesse Barfield and Steve Berthiaume's favorite player, Don Money.