Sam Fuld on Brett Butler
We already knew Sam Fuld was great, whether it was his small stature, book-educated brain, or the fact that the Rays rightly awarded him with his very own superhero cape. But now, while he prepares to begin a rehab assignment, we learn he’s even cooler than all that. He’s also a huge baseball nerd. Like us.
And while the Hall of Very Good has been highlighting the beloved players who don’t quite measure up, Sam Fuld’s piece is very special. Not just because it’s well-written, and because it measures up with my boyhood love of Rey Ordonez or Dave Martinez (don’t ask), but because of the sheer time and thought he put into it. Take it away, Mr. Fuld:
“He was 5’10”, skinny, and looked more biologist than baseball player. Playing alongside behemoth outfielders like Joe Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Darryl Strawberry, he excelled as the leadoff centerfielder for the Indians, Giants and Dodgers. Whether it was with speed, a keen eye or his unparalleled bunting ability, Butler found a way to produce for his teams and irritate opponents at the same time. While his career stolen base percentage of 68.5% is just ordinary (slightly below average given today’s standards but slightly above the roughly 67% MLB SB success rate that encompassed Butler’s career from 1981-1997), Butler did rack up 558 steals, including eleven consecutive seasons with at least 30 and thirteen seasons in which he finished in the top ten in his league.
Butler never won a Gold Glove, but at least part of that was due to the strange bias shown toward great hitters when awarding Gold Gloves. We all know that quantifying defense is a challenge, especially when measuring anyone who played in the 20th Century, but most major metrics consider him an above average defender. Bill James gave him a B+ in his Win Shares book, and Matt Souders’ Pythagorean Comparative Analysis (PCA) has Butler as one of the top 20 defensive centerfielders of all time. And if you like simpler statistics, Butler is seventh all-time in putouts by centerfielders and 13th among all outfielders.”
If you were to tell me that a current Major League Baseball player would not only write a compelling and thought provoking piece about Brett Butler in 2012, but also include Bill James’ Win Shares, I would have laughed. Hard. Because that seems ridiculous. And yet, here we are. It happened. And someday, maybe ten years from now, maybe some kid will write about Sam Fuld in the same way.