Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Brett Butler. Butler was a little guy (5’-10”, 160 lbs), but was a fantastic leadoff hitter. Drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round in 1979, he made his big league debut in 1981. He had very little power with only 54 career homeruns and a career slugging average lower than his on base percentage. But he was an on base machine. He was overshadowed in the 1980’s by two of the greatest leadoff hitters of all time (Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines).
The three of them were great but for different reasons. Raines did everything well, stealing bases at an unbelievable 84.7% clip and reaching base more times than Tony Gwynn. Rickey crouched, stole 1406 bases, hit 88 career leadoff homeruns, racked up 3055 hits and 2190 walks, making him one of only seven players to reach base 5000 times and fourth all time. Butler was different. He wasn’t a fast player, but he did steal 558 bases. While I mentioned his Slg. was lower than his OBP that is in part because his career OBP is .377 (his Slg. was .376). He was a fantastic bunter (you read that right), one who Bill James stated as the best bunter of the 1980’s. He was a contact hitter, one who struck out fewer times than he walked and never struck out 80 times in a season.
In 1983 Butler and Brook Jacoby were traded to the Cleveland Indians for Len Barker. This trade was vehemently hated by Braves fans, who petitioned to keep the very popular Butler. By the way, how likeable would an outfield of Butler and Dale Murphy have been? Murphy was easily the most admirable star of the decade, but Butler would not have been too far behind. Imagine having Butler set the table for Murph. Sorry Braves fans, didn’t mean to make you cry. Butler ended up scoring 1359 runs, reached base over 3500 times, and played a solid center field. He scored six runs in five games in the 1989 NLCS. While his Hall Of Fame Rating (a stat I have created for comparing players in Hall of Fame debates) of 51.83 falls short, he was a tremendous player.