TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at

Read more about them.

TwinsCentric: Drew Butera and defensive prowess

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: January 18, 2013 - 10:52 AM

 On Thursday the Minnesota Twins and catcher Drew Butera avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $700,000 contract, an almost assured sign that Butera will be on the roster as the team’s third backstop.

Why, you ask, might the Twins invest almost a million dollars in a player who is completely expendable as the epitome of a replacement level player?

Consider this: Over the past three years Butera’s OPS (.497 OPS) has been the worst in the American League and the second worst in all of baseball. Only the Giants’ Emmanuel Burriss has had an OPS lower than Butera. This, for all intents and purposes, should be the definition of replaceable.

Almost all of the rational for his retention revolves around his defensive prowess. In fact, Googling “Drew Butera” and “Defensive Prowess” pings back numerous articles using that phrase to describe him. Much like focusing on someone’s “good personality” to conceal other glaring flaws (i.e. nasty body odor, operates a baseball blog, etc), “defensive prowess” feels like a similar smokescreen to avoid stating the obvious about his bat.

But how “prow” is his defense?

This question is harder to answer as there is no definite measurement or widely available statistic that accurately portrays a catcher’s value based on things like game-calling, framing and/or controlling the run game. One can look at a stat like caught stealing but that tells as much of a story of a catcher’s skill has fielding percentage does a shortstop or outfield assists speak towards a right fielder.

In 2011, pitch f/x guru Mike Fast – now an analyst for the Houston Astros – showed the baseball world just how much value could be placed on a catcher’s framing ability. By his methods, having a catcher who can coax out a borderline strike could save 15-20 runs per season – the equivalent of one or two wins. Conversely, a bad catcher could cost their team the same amount of runs. Of course, while this data is fascinating, it is something that has not been automated by any sites to make this information publicly available so we do not know if Butera’s technique save or cost the Twins runs.

One thing we do know is that Butera has a strong track record of throwing runners out. In 2011, possibly because of Carl Pavano’s disregard for the run game, the Twins paired him with Butera who has show a propensity to cutting down base-runners in his minor league career. According to his stats, between 2005 and 2011, he nabbed 42% of all would-be thieves. This past year, his caught stealing rate plummeted and he managed to throw out just four on the bases.

In George Will’s Men At Work -- an examination of some of the game’s finer points through the eyes of the best players at the time -- teams will track a catcher’s catch-and-release time which is dubbed “pop-to-pop” time. Pop-to-pop time is a measurement used by coaches to separate good catcher arms from bad ones. This means they are stopwatching from the moment the ball hits the catcher’s glove until it smacks the middle infielder’s mitt. In the book, an unnamed coach rattles off pop-to-pop times.

1.94 seconds: Good.

2.12: That base is good as gone.

2.04: M’eh.

1.85: Nailed ‘em.

Overall, the difference between being ninety feet closer to scoring a run or gaining an out is approximately one-hundredth of a second. Naturally, the ability to throw runners out is tied to the pitcher keeping the runner from breaking early.

This brings me to the Twins’ trio of backstops. While theft is a shared liability with the battery mate, having a pitching staff that has total disregard for the running game reduces the effectiveness of a defensive catcher. The 2012 Twins were labeled as one of the worst at base-runner attentiveness. That said, Butera’s ability to catch and release provided this staff with the best odds of thwarting larceny.

In an inexact study, a stopwatch has shown that over the course of five throws to second, Butera’s “pop-to-pop” time averages out to be the best:

So Butera has a better arm or better footwork or a quicker release than the other two, at least in this small sample. Observationally, Butera was able to make these quick throws while handling sliders down and away on at least two of those five examples. This should not go ignored. 

Over the entire season, Baseball Info Solution has assigned a value on a catcher’s ability to subdue the run game. Of the Twins’ three, Butera (0) outperforms both Mauer (-3) and Doumit (-1). So, strictly speaking controlling the run game, Butera’s effect on the overall team’s performances is slightly better than Mauer and Doumit’s but minimal according to BIS. This begs the question, is being able to control the run game worth paying nearly a million for a third catcher?

Someday we may have the tools to be better equipped to answer that question. For now, the Twins are committed to bringing him back – for better or worse.

Over at Twins Daily:

Nick Nelson asks the question if Justin Morneau will be Better or Worse in 2013.

If you are heading down to TwinsFest on Saturday, Twins Daily will be hosting a party at Hubert's across the street from the Dome.

DiamondCentric has a new t-shirt design out: LEGENDS (and a new hockey one I WANT TO DRIVE THE ZAMBONI).

Finally, be sure to pick up a copy of Seth Stohs' new Prospect Handbook. Vital for anyone following the Twins organization.


Tennessee 7:25 PM
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 7:00 PM
New Orleans 7:30 PM
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Golden State
Florida 0 1st Prd 20:00
Philadelphia 0
Colorado 0 1st Prd 19:39
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 0 1st Prd 19:54
Carolina 0
Washington 0 1st Prd 19:36
Columbus 0
Anaheim 6:30 PM
St. Louis 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Edmonton 9:30 PM
San Jose
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 0 1st Half 20:00
Canisius 0
Temple 2 1st Half 18:48
Delaware 0
FIU 2 1st Half 15:54
Long Island 9
Lehigh 9 1st Half 15:04
Quinnipiac 13
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Seton Hall 5 1st Half 17:58
South Florida 0
Ga Southern 2 1st Half 17:45
Stetson 5
Yale 8 1st Half 15:38
Vermont 7
Cleveland State 4 1st Half 16:02
Virginia 6
Wright State 4 1st Half 17:10
Western Carolina 6
Nicholls 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Morgan State 6:30 PM
Idaho State 6:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oakland City 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Eureka 7:00 PM
Appalachian St 7:00 PM
Connecticut 7:00 PM
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Coastal Carolina 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Montana State 7:30 PM
South Dakota
LSU 8:00 PM
Ohio 8:05 PM
CS-Dominguez 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Walla Walla 9:00 PM
DePaul 9:00 PM
Oregon State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Portland State 9:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Bakersfield 9:05 PM
Utah State
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 42 2nd Half 19:29
St Mary-KS 30 2nd Half 16:05
South Dakota 81
William & Mary 46 2nd Half 16:01
Wofford 25
Troy 35 1st Half 0:06
Evansville 53
Trine 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Loyola Marymount 0 1st Half 16:28
USC 12
St Francis-PA 0 1st Half 20:00
Duquesne 0
Indiana-Southeast 0 1st Half 20:00
Delaware State 0 1st Half 19:21
Detroit 1
Tenn Temple 0 1st Half 20:00
Gardner-Webb 0
West Virginia St 2 1st Half 17:48
Radford 4
Fairfield 2 1st Half 18:23
Seton Hall 3
Dartmouth 0 1st Half 20:00
New Hampshire 0
Ball State 5 1st Half 17:36
Pittsburgh 2
Jacksonville 0 1st Half 20:00
Tennessee St 0
Tenn Tech 6:30 PM
Samford 7:00 PM
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Ark-Little Rock 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
CS-Northridge 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
(19) Oklahoma St 8:00 PM
Weber State
Washington 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Cal Poly 8:00 PM
New Mexico
(10) Louisville 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Ervin Santana signing by the Twins?

Weekly Question