What’s wrong with Dave Bush?

Posted by Steve

I was fortunate enough not to witness Dave Bush’s most recent start in which he lasted only one third of an inning. However, I’m guessing I didn’t need to see it in order to determine that something is wrong with him. Whether it’s injury or just steady decline, it appears he may be cooked.

I don’t mean to imply that Dave Bush used to be a top-of-the-rotation guy (he was in 2006), but he was certainly a serviceable starter that would have pitched in most teams’ rotations. He was never a power pitcher by any means, but he used to have an average fastball around 89 mph, which isn’t bad for a starting pitcher. He got by with an average fastball because he mixed in four other pitches that he commanded well. His career walk rate is an excellent 2.26 per nine innings, so you can see why I liked him.

Bush was clearly affected by his injury last season; he wasn’t the same pitcher the rest of the year. A look back at his last few years, though, is a cause for concern. Here are Bush’s average fastball velocities from each season with the Brewers.

2006: 89.2
2007: 88.7
2008: 88.7
2009: 87.9
2010: 85.8

Yikes. That’s not pretty. One possibility that could explain 2009’s dip to 87.9 is the injury, but then how do you explain the drop he’s experienced this season? 87.9 to 85.8 is a huge difference.  Bush is now 30 years old, so some decline could be expected, but you don’t expect someone to fall off a cliff at age 30 without any injury.

Not surprisingly, this dip in velocity is reflected in Bush’s numbers. Before this season, Bush never had a career walk rate higher than 2.91 per nine innings. This year, it’s 4.63! In fact, he’s got the hat trick: 2010 is good for Bush’s career worst in strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate. Clearly he is realizing he can’t challenge hitters as much anymore, which results in more nibbling, which results in more walks and home runs.

Bush has been one of my favorite Brewers over the last five years, but he should no longer be kept in the rotation. It may be worth a shot to try him in the bullpen to see if he can regain some velocity throwing in shorter stints, but for now, he can’t be in the rotation. Considering the large drop in velocity, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him put on the disabled list with the dreaded “arm fatigue” diagnosis.

Chris Capuano, of all people, is the likely guy to replace Bush in the rotation–and what a great story that would be. Capuano is recovering from a second Tommy John surgery, and has been great since moving up to AAA Nashville. In three starts, he’s thrown 21 innings, struck out 13, walked just three, and allowed no home runs. He’s got an out clause that he can exercise after May 29, which means he’ll probably only have one more start in Nashville anyway. I expect him to replace Bush in the rotation after that start.


One response to “What’s wrong with Dave Bush?

  1. Two ideas…

    1) bring back the beard

    2) stop wearing soccer socks and get some real stirrups

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