This offseason, the Minnesota Twins brought in J.R. Towles to compete with Drew Butera for the 3rd string catching job behind Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit. Neither Butera or Towles has any offensive skill to speak of, despite logging 93 and 54 games, respectively. In 2011 Twins fans were able to watch Butera stink it up to the tune of 39 hits in 254 PA while posting an OPS+ of 024. Ouch! Similarly in Houston, Astros’ fans watched Towles put up a disgusting .184/.256/.293, a level only slightly above Butera’s .178/.220/.261.
Earlier this week I was suffering through some serious bloggers block and couldn’t think of anything to write about. I asked Twitterdom to help me out. Brandon Warne (@BrandonWarne52) suggested that I use my writing and analysis skills to figure out who would win a deathmatch between Butera and Towles. I, of course, thought this to be in jest, but Brandon assured me that, in all seriousness, he wanted to know who would win said deathmatch. and so in the words that follow I will use baseball statics from their careers to find out who will survive the deathmatch and become the Twins 3rd string catcher in 2012.
The rules are simple: winner joins the team in Minneapolis/St. Paul while the loser will begin an eternity in either heaven or hell (or Rochester if either Terry Ryan or Jim Pohlad spare the loser his final judgement). The fight will consist of 2 minute rounds, after each there will be a 90 second break and the fight will continue as long as it has to. Either player may tap out and face instant shame and humiliation (of course, with the slash lines the two put up last year, both are already dealing with a good deal of that). The first round will be hand-to-hand combat, and after that random weapons will be placed in the ring, as the fight continues, the brutality of the weapons will increase. We’ll assume that each year of MLB service equates to successful completion of previous deathmatches. That makes Towles 5-0 and easily the favorite over the upstart Butera who is 2-0, but has had 2 ugly victories. And that brings us now to the main event, Butera vs Towles in a brutal fight to the death.
Both Butera and Towles come out of the gates swinging wildly. Unfortunately, neither can land a punch. They spend more time in the first round dancing around each other trying to connect and wearing each other out. When the bell rings both players are gassed and neither has landed any shots worth mentioning. Butera took 51 swings, landing 10 (good for .196, just a point lower than his 2010 BA). Towles has faired even worse landing only 6 shots out of 45 (a miserable .133, very similiar to his sophmore (2008) season when he hit a worthless .137). Butera clings to a slight margin of victory, but both men are clearly exhausted and weapons are about to enter the arena.
As both men retire to their corners a silver butter knife and a heavy duty spork are places near the middle of the ring. Neither weapon seems to be of particular note, but in a fight to the death, any advantage available should be used.
At the opening bell both Butera and Towles make a dash for the weapons, but neither is particularly fast (neither has a stolen base in their MLB career, and Butera has never even TRIED to swipe a base). The ensuing shuffle for the butter knife is ugly, but Towles has a slight edge in fielding percentage (.990 to .987) and is able to grab the knife on the first patch. Butera, who actually has a positive career dWAR (.6) quickly adjusts to Towles grab of the knife and secures the spork for himself. Drew quickly realizes that this is no ordinary spork, the outside tine of the spork has a serrated edge, a distinct advantage. The two catchers begin lunging at each other with their crude weapons, and Butera is able to gouge an ugly gash in the left side of Towles head. Towles, unfazed by the injury quickly counters with a quick stab to Butera’s mid-section. The butter knife is dull, but manages to break through the skin, Butera is immediately hobbled by the wound. The bell rings. Round 2 is over.
While Drew and JR get some much needed rest, Terry Ryan trots around the ring with the round 3 card and Jim Pohlad places a Louisville Slugger with nails sticking out of it (a classic zombie fighting weapon) and a Twins Spring Training mini-bat in the center of the ring.
As the bell rings starting round three Towles comes out throwing. Despite having thrown out only 23% of runners over the course of his career (22 of 72) Towles puts his butter knife right on the money, striking Butera in the temple. Drew is visibly shaken and takes a stumble step forward, giving Towles just enough time to snatch the Louisville Slugger and dart to the outside of the ring. Butera recovers, but between the knife wound suffered last round and the ringing in his head he is clearly impaired. Butera grabs the mini-bat in one hand and his sport in the other, he is not going to give up. Towles makes a running swing at Butera, but, as predicted by JR’s career .187 BA, he misses and Drew is able to counter with a spork slash to his side and a mini-bat pound to the ribs of Towles. As Towles doubles over from the shot to the ribs, Butera gets a clean shot to Towles head with the mini-bat and then scampers away. The two catchers circle each other several more times, and Butera is able to fend off 2 more swings by Towles before the round ends.
As round 3 comes to an end, Towles looks exhausted. Having never played more than 54 games in a season, the longer the match goes, the better the chances are for Butera who played 93 games for the Twins last season. Again TR comes out with the ring card and Mr. Pohlad places a chainsaw in the middle of the ring.
Butera takes a page out of Towles book and begins the round by chucking his mini-bat at Towles. Towles, exhausted and still shaken from the last mini-bat shot to the head is unable to defend himself and Butera (who has thrown out 36% of base runners over his career) lands a direct blow to Towles head. Butera is unable to get to the chain saw before Towles swings violently with his Louisville Slugger barely missing Butera who had jumped out of the way. The 3rd string catchers dance around the chain-saw, Butera now at a distinct disadvantage having only a spork to defend himself. Towles, who has shown considerably more power than Butera (.315 SLG compared to .261 for Butera) is bound to connect eventually. Butera, knowing Towles is tiring, tries to keep him dancing, but Butera’s own wound has begun to slow him down as well. Drew makes a lounge directly at Towles, hoping to get inside the 6’2″ righty, but Towles fights him off, landing a blow with the bat to Butera’s left shoulder. Butera rolls away but has been seriously injured, he is in danger of losing this battle and never improving upon his career -1.1 WAR. Towles comes at him again, landing a glancing blow to Butera’s ribs and he goes down. Towles uses the break in the action to grab the chain saw and give the cord a pull. The death machine roars to life and Butera is still rolling on the ground. Towles raises the machine above his head ready to land the death blow upon Butera when Ron Gardenhire appears out of no where and throws himself over Drew Butera and the bell rings.
In the confusion that follows, Butera is disqualified, Towles is declared the winner and Gardy sneaks away hiding behind TR and Jim Pohland who appear unfazed by their manager’s disregard for conventional rules of death matches. Towles is awarded the Twins 3rd string catching duties and Butera is sent to Rochester to lick his wounds in AAA.