1995 SCORE SELECT BRETT BUTLER
It’s easy to forget that Brett Butler played for the Mets. As far as life mysteries goes, it ranks right up there with what I’m doing with a complete set of 1995 Score Select cards. Perhaps it was won as a door prize at an auction I went to or maybe someone sent them to me by mistake and didn’t want to pay for the return postage.
My strong preference is for cards to be in the portrait, rather than the landscape orientation that every single card is in this set. It’s not too dissimilar to my preference that hitters swing the bat rather than bunt the ball, like Butler is doing in this BP action photo.
Yet if you had to point out to one of the strengths of Butler as a player – one of the first things you would mention would be his skill as a bunter. He had virtually no power, so the outfielders didn’t play very deep when he came to the plate. Still, there was room between the outfield and infield because the corners were playing in, too, to guard against the bunt.
According to research done by James Gentile of Beyond the Box Score, Butler had the most bases empty bunt hits in a single season when he recorded 29 back in 1992. He also shows up on the list in 1993 (23), 1991 (18), 1990 (18), 1995 (17) and 1988 (16). For his career, Butler had 188 bases empty bunt hits, the all-time record.
Of course, Butler bunted when there were runners on base, too. He had 41 bunt hits in 1992, a major league record, meaning he had a bunt single 12 times with runners on base. And for good measure, he led the majors in sacrifice hits that season with 24. Of the 511 times he put the ball in play in 1992, he bunted at least 87 times, perhaps a handful more if he bunted with a man on base, an out was recorded and he was not credited with a sacrifice.
Butler came to the Mets as a free agent for the 1995 season. He got off to a strong start, slumped badly from mid-May through mid-July (.525 OPS in 220 PA) and then put up a 1.184 OPS over his final 111 PA with the club before being dealt back to the Dodgers for two minor leaguers who never panned out.
Butler was 38 when he played with the Mets and he played parts of two seasons after 1995. He might have even played more if he was not struck with throat cancer, which limited him to just 34 games in 1996. He defied the odds and made it back to the majors.
Overall, he played 17 years in the majors and put up a Hall of Very Good type of career – with 2,375 hits, 558 SB and 42.2 fWAR. Oddly, one of the things holding him back in fWAR was his defensive play. Butler finished with a (-83.0) fielding component – remember this is the pre-UZR days. If he would have just been an average fielder, he would have finished with around 50 fWAR. And if his defensive results matched his reputation, there might be bloggers pimping his Hall of Fame candidacy in serious ways.