Tag Archives: Dave Bush

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.

Spring Training Fluff

Posted by Steve

At this time of year, we’re starving for news to overanalyze.  For example, Rickie Weeks has a 1.059 OPS.  Discuss his awesomeness at your respective water coolers, break rooms, study groups and playgrounds.

Because of this, we get a lot of fluff pieces.  In the past, both Jason Kendall and Bill Hall have gotten laser eye surgery in an off-season, leading to Spring Training stories about improved eyesight and to me creating a ‘The Wonders of Laser Eye Surgery’ tag.  In both instances, the surgery had no positive impact on the player’s offense.

This year we get a similar story on Corey Hart.  He’s going to wear prescription goggles.  First of all, awesome.  I had RecSpecs one year in Little League before I got contact lenses, and they were badass.  Secondly, I refuse to get sucked into thinking his offense will improve due to this.  They sort of had me hoping with Hall, and that was a disaster.

There’s a similar story on, of all people, Jeff Suppan.  Apparently, new pitching coach Rick Peterson suggested something new with his hands that he’s all excited about.

It all makes a lot of sense.  It’s simple.  If it adds that little extra on a pitch, that one pitch may get you out of an inning rather than throwing another ten pitches.  I’m excited.

No.  I won’t do it.  I will not allow myself to think that Rick Peterson is going to salvage Jeff Suppan.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my prediction is that I’m going to get really tired of all the Rick Peterson love this year.  Let’s take a look at the starting rotation:

Gallardo:  He never had a walk rate close to last year’s poor mark, so there’s reason to expect it to drop down.  So he’ll be better.

Parra: He fell far short of expectations last year, so there is again reason to expect at least a small rebound.

Bush:  He’s healthy again.  He pitched well until he was hit on the arm by that line drive last year.

Wolf: He’s better than Looper.

Davis: He’s better than Suppan.

Suppan: Even if he made no changes, it would be almost impossible to be as bad as he was last year.  He had a historically bad season.

So, the rotation will be better.  Here’s what people will notice. “Hey, there’s a new pitching coach this year!  Causation always means correlation!  Therefore, Rick Peterson must be the reason the pitching is better!”

Prepare to be annoyed.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

July in review: It sucked.

Posted by Steve

Entering July, the Brewers were 42-35 and had a two game lead in the NL Central.  Hard to believe that was just a month ago.  A 9-17 month has dropped the Crew to fourth place, prevented them from trading for an impact starting pitcher and dropped their playoff odds to 2.4%.  It’s not often that a team’s season goes down the toilet in just one month, but the Brewers managed to pull it off beautifully.

To find the reason for their struggles, there’s no need to look beyond starting pitching.  The Brewers have allowed the third most runs per game in the National League.  Their starters are averaging 5.6 innings per game started, the second worst mark in the NL.  That has unsurprisingly taken a toll on a bullpen that was a team strength, but has worn down due to overuse.  Things aren’t going to go well when you have one above average starting pitcher on your team.  Let’s look at this brutal rotation.

Yovani Gallardo

Good, but not great.  His strikeout totals are great, but he’s fifth-worst in the league in walks per nine innings with 4.3.  The walks have prevented him from being efficient and pitching deep into games consistently.  It has not, however, prevented the Brewers from riding him like a rented mule.  Gallardo leads the NL in pitches thrown per start with 108.  That is mind-boggling.  No, it’s actually infuriating.  More than anything, even more than the awful July that took the Brewers out of the playoff race, the way Gallardo has been abused has me furious.  THE GUY THREW 24 INNINGS LAST YEAR!  He’s 23 years old!  Am I missing something that Ken Macha isn’t?  This is completely unacceptable.

Manny Parra

Not good.  Manny has had some good starts, but most have been the of the nibbling-then-grooving-strikes variety.  He can be maddening to watch.  I’m able to defend him a bit; he has had terrible luck.  His ERA is an ugly 6.5, but his BABIP is .368 and his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 4.59.  In other words, he hasn’t been terrible, just below average.  His walk rate continues to be terrible, though.

Dave Bush

Incomplete.  Bush’s injury has doomed the Brewers, because it allowed for the Mike Burns era to occur.  Bush was the most known commodity in the Brewers’ rotation.  You knew you’d be getting an unspectacular yet solid starter who, until this year, would be able to pitch all season.

Braden Looper/Jeff Suppan

Awful.  Simply horrendous.  I lumped these two together because each one doesn’t even deserve his own paragraph.  If you want a good laugh (cry?), head over to fangraphs.com.  Sort by league leaders, choose National League and sort by worst FIP.  Alright, I’m sure you aren’t feeling that ambitious, so I’ll do you a favor and tell you what you’d find: Braden Looper and Jeff Suppan are number 1 and 2 on that list.  That’s right ladies and gents!  Out of all qualified starting pitchers in the National League, the Brewers have not one, but the two very worst pitchers in the league!  That’s actually incredibly impressive.  I wonder if that’s even happened before?

This terrible month has also eliminated them from being buyers at the trade deadline.  It made no sense to give up any prospects for rental players with the team hovering at .500.  The problem is, selling wasn’t a great option either.  The rental players they had to sell include Trevor Hoffman, Mike Cameron, Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez.  There’s a strong possibility that the Brewers will attempt to bring back at least three of those players for next season, because they want to win next year.  It’s tough to be a true seller when your aim is to compete the very next season.  Also, many have mentioned J.J. Hardy in trade rumors, but I didn’t list him among the candidates to trade because I’m just not ready to hand over the everyday shortstop job to Alcides Escobar.  Escobar is hitting .302/.352/.413 in AAA.  Not horrible, but far from beating down the door to the majors.  So basically, the Brewers were forced to stand pat.

(And yes, I count the Claudio Vargas deal as standing pat.  They didn’t give up anything of value, so it’s low-risk, but I can’t stand watching the Human Rain Delay pitch).

It hurts to say it, but we have to be realistic.  The Brewers are done for 2009.  There’s no way they can compete with three terrible starting pitchers (Suppan, Looper and Burns) in the rotation.  It’s a damn shame, too.  They’re wasting career years from Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

Prince is actually having an MVP season.  He leads in probably the number one stathead category, WPA (Win Probability Added).  From fangraphs: WPA takes into account the importance of each situation in the game. A walk off home run is going to be weighted more then a home run in a game that has already gotten out of hand. This makes it a great tool for determining how valuable a player was to his team’s win total.

In other words, a strong argument could be made that Fielder has been the MVP.  If nothing else, he’s the runaway number 2 candidate to Pujols.  Either way, they’re wasting an outstanding year with their crap pitching.

It’s sad that we’re already forced to look ahead to the 2010 season.  This team is likely going to look a LOT different next year, as it should.  In the meantime, here’s to another two months of watching the Looper Grimace.

Starting Rotation: Pretty much an emergency

Posted by Steve

Before I get started, I want to say that I used my best judgment and ultimately decided to end the tarnation streak at three.  I could have gone with something like, “What in tarnation is wrong with the starting rotation?” or “What in tarnation can the Brewers get in the trade market?” but it just felt forced.  Nothing kills a joke like overuse, so I decided to tuck away the tarnation tag until it truly fits.

I’m feeling one of those cheezy radio commercials here that are played during a game.  You know, the ones that try to relate something like banking, truck driving or insurance to baseball.

In baseball, you should never make a trade just to make a trade.  The same goes for blogging!  Don’t use a tarnation tag just to use a tarnation tag.  Before using a tarnation tag, be sure it adds to the enjoyment of the post.  For more information, call the Digger’s Hotline.

Anyway.  Things have been pretty ugly as of late.  One of the more active threads on BF right now is discussing whether the Brewers should be sellers at the deadline.  That’s jumping the gun in my opinion, but something will need to be done before long if the Brewers are going to make a serious run for the playoffs.

I’ve said I felt the offense would improve to the point of making up for the drop in pitching from last season.  So far, the offense has been good but not great–fourth in the NL in with 4.77 runs per game compared to seventh (4.63 runs per game) last season.  That won’t be enough to overcome for the poor pitching.

I didn’t expect the starting pitching to be very good as a whole to begin with, but it’s been even worse than expected.  They’ve had one good start in the last eight games.  Yo’s last start was good, but I’ve made light of his recent struggles.  I’m also getting concerned about his heavy workload.  Bush and Looper have been very hittable lately (and Bush’s arm fatigue wrinkles things even further).  As amazing as it sounds, the only pitcher pitching up to his capability over the last month is none other than Jeff Suppan.  What’s worse is the struggles of the rotation is taking a toll on the bullpen, which was stellar over the first two months.

Things wouldn’t be so dire if it wasn’t for Manny Parra.  He’s really screwed the pooch.  Dan went over why Parra is probably set to bounce back at some point, but the fact of the matter is it’s a very poorly timed implosion on his part.

Before the season, I assumed that in order to make the playoffs, the Brewers would need to bring in another solid starting pitcher to improve the rotation–at least a number three-type starter.  I still feel this way.  The problem is, quality starting pitching is not as abundant as it was around last season’s trade deadline.

Injuries have taken a toll on the trade market.  Jake Peavy was probably a lock to be traded somewhere (already was but vetoed the trade to the White Sox), but his foot injury may have him sidelined past the trade deadline.  This was a bit of a relief to me, because there was plenty of chatter that the Brewers were in talks with San Diego to acquire Peavy.  I was all ready to write an anti-Peavy post, but his injury made the point moot.  In a nutshell, my reasons against Peavy were mainly his hefty contract, but also his decline in numbers, drop in his velocity and moving out of a friendly pitcher’s park.

Roy Halladay, a phenomenal pitcher, was recently put on the DL–to be fair, he was only an outside shot to be traded this year anyway.  Erik Bedard is another good pitcher who could be traded but recently went on the DL.

Matt Cain was a popular trade target for some fans, but the Giants are hanging around so far and won’t deal him if they’re still in contention for a wildcard spot around the deadline.

Complicating the matter is the Brewers have told teams that Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar are untouchable.  That means you can cross off guys like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cain anyway.

I’m ready to make a pitch for my number one trade target.  Before I say who, keep in mind there is no CC Sabathia readily available this year.  There isn’t even a Rich Harden.  The best pitcher who could be available is Cliff Lee, but he’s under contract for next year; therefore Cleveland is likely to ask for a ton.  I’m not even sure they’ll trade him, because they might want to keep him to make a run next season.  To find a match, you need to identify the best pitcher likely to be available that won’t require either Gamel or Escobar.  In my mind, that pitcher is Erik Bedard.

Bedard had been a good to great pitcher in each of the last five seasons.  He’s having an outstanding 2009 so far: 65 2/3 innigs, 2.47 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 65 strikeouts and 22 walks.  So far this season, he’s been an ace.

So why, then, would the Brewers be able to acquire him without giving up Gamel or Escobar?  Here’s why.

1) Bedard is injury prone.  He only threw 81 innings last season.  He’s currently on the DL with “shoulder fatigue,” which is never a good sign.  I wouldn’t even be discussing him, but an MRI revealed no structural damage and the plan as of now is to have him back in the rotation before too long.  If that ends up not happening, this entire point is moot and I’ll have to live with the fact that I wasted 20 minutes typing about an Erik Bedard trade.

2) He’s not a workhorse.  He will in absolutely no way come close to what Sabathia did last year.  And I’m not referring to performance, as nobody should be expected to put up the numbers CC did last year, but I’m referring to innings pitched.  Sabathia consistently went deep into the game, and made several starts on three days’ rest.  Bedard won’t do either of those things.  He has one, count em, one complete game in his entire career.  He’s generally a six inning pitcher, which is almost exactly what he’s averaged per start this season.  Not that that’s bad, but coupled with his injury history, it lowers his price to trade suitors.

3) Here’s the big one: he’s a free agent at the end of this year.  Therefore, it would be another rental situation.  The Brewers gave up a top 100 prospect in Matt LaPorta for a rental last year, but that was for a Hall of Fame-talent pitcher.  There’s no way they’d give up Gamel or Escobar to rent Bedard, nor would the Mariners expect them to.

A Mariners-Brewers trade is also logical because Jack Z is Seattle’s GM now, and he’s obviously extremely familiar with the Brewers’ system.  I’m sure there’s plenty of players in Milwaukee’s system that he’d love to add.

If Bedard doesn’t work out, there are some lesser pitchers who could be available.  Another free agent-to-be the Mariners have is Jarrod Washburn, who is quietly having his best season in years.  His stuff isn’t as good as Bedard’s, but he’s more durable and therefore less of a risk.  He actually probably wouldn’t even be that much cheaper than Bedard, and I’d be just about as pleased to get him.

Same goes for Randy Johnson.  The Brewers could get him without giving up Gamel or Escobar, but as I mentioned with Matt Cain, the Giants won’t trade him as long as they’re playing fairly well.

Another decent-yet-unexciting pickup could be our old friend Doug Davis.  He’s another guy in a contract year.

Any of these players I mentioned are better than most of the guys in the Brewers’ starting rotation right now.  The ideal pickup would be someone who’s better than everyone besides Gallardo, but there just aren’t many fits for reasons discussed above.  Regardless, the Brewers should be able to right the ship if they can add a solid pitcher.  If Manny Parra can get his head on straight as well, they’d be back in good shape.

Oh, and I’m still giving this the What in tarnation?!@ category even though it’s not in the title because I discussed why it wasn’t getting the What in tarnation?!@ category.  Wrap your mind around that one.

I think I need to get to more games.

Posted by Steve

I haven’t been to many Brewer games this year. Last year I attended many more than I could afford, but for whatever reason, I just haven’t been out to that many yet in ’08. Just two, in fact, but apparently I make them count. My first game was the Friday game against the Cardinals in which Rickie Weeks had that beautiful walk-off hit, and the second was tonight’s game. Guess I know how to pick ’em. Also, I suppose that means I need to attend more games. Fine, fine. I’ll take one for the team.

I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining game. After a shaky start, Dave Bush looked like the 2006 version of himself, and Tim Hudson was awesome (only one walk for each team, and both were intentional!). Both sides played great defense. And who would ever think we’d hear the phrase “Great baserunning tonight by Bill Hall!” when it wasn’t sarcastic?

Good stuff. More like this Brewers, please? Kthx.

Photo taken from JSonline.com