Butler Keeping a Book, and He'll Be Checking It Twice

Associated Press

Cleveland Indians' center fielder Brett Butler intends to play baseball by the book this year.

"I never had kept a book on opposing pitchers, catchers and hitters until last season," Butler said from the Indians' spring training camp. "This year I'll add on to what I already have."

Butler came to Cleveland from the Atlanta Braves after the 1983 season and soon started logging notes on other American League players.

"I gave up almost an at-bat per game the first half of last year because I didn't know the pitchers," he said.

Butler's book also helps him defensively, because it tells him how to position himself for opposing hitters.

On the basepaths, his research aids him regarding pitchers' pickoff moves and deliveries to the plate, and reminds him which catchers are most likely to throw him out stealing.

"I hope it gives me an edge," he said.

Last season, the 27-year-old speedster excelled in several categories important to a leadoff hitter. He led the league with 29 bunt singles, ranked fourth with 108 runs scored and sixth with 86 walks.

However, despite his third-place total of 52 stolen bases, Butler was unhappy because he was thrown out a league-leading 22 times--often when he was fooled by a pitcher's pickoff move to first base.

And, take away his 29 bunt hits in 42 attempts and Butler would have batted only .238.

"I'm not satisfied with my hitting last year by a long shot. I hit .269 overall, and to me that's not a good batting average. I think knowing the league better will help me," he said.

Butler expects to be picked off less often this year, because he will be more familiar with pitchers' deliveries.

Considered a fine center fielder, Butler looks for further improvement, including no errors.

"Last year I dove for 10 or 15 balls that I got a glove on and couldn't hold on to, and a few balls got over my head that shouldn't have. I want a Gold Glove and to do that I'll have to make more plays than anyone else," he said.

Cleveland batting coach Bobby Bonds, a three-time Gold Glove-winning outfielder, says Butler's year of experience in the league will definitely make a difference.

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