Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
We were at the beach
Everybody had matching towels
Somebody went under a dock
And there they saw a rock

The story of yesterday's game was that Dave Bush won his first game of the year, bring his record "up to" 1-5 as the Jays won 9-4. From a DIPS standpoint it was not a stellar outing: Only 2 strikeouts. But hey, he only walked 1 and didn't give up a single longball!

That last part is significant. According to the excellent stats over at The Hardball Times before yesterday's game Bush had been giving up 1.53 homers a game (9 innings). This is very, very high. Very high. There are only two pitchers in baseball who have qualified for the ERA title who have been giving up dingers at a faster rate: Scott Elarton and Jose Lima. Did I mention that HR/G rate is very high?

Bush's 4.3 K/G rate isn't anything to write home about either, but there are 9/54 ERA-qualifying pitchers who have a K/G rate at or lower than that: Kyle Lohse, Jason Johnson, Kenny Rogers, Jose Lima (again!), Ryan Franklin, Aaron Sele, Carlos Silva, Joe Mays, and Kirk Saarloos.

Fortunately for Bush, he doesn't walk people. His 1.7 BB/G rate. Only 8 of those 54 ERA qualifiers are stingier with the free pases: Carlos Silva, Brad Radke, David Wells, Roy Halladay, Paul Byrd, Mark Buehrle, Josh Towers, and Carl Pavano. Roy Halladay and Josh Towers in the same group? Hmm.

At any rate, there's one thing that Dave Bush does very well and two things he does very poorly. That's not a great ratio if you want to have a long major league career. Bush is going to have to do some combination of these three things to stay in the bigs:

  1. Cut down on the Homers
  2. Strikeout more people
  3. Walk almost NO ONE
What would he look like if he only did one and only one of the following? Well, here are Bush's stats as of yesterday:
David Bush
4.3   K/G
1.7  BB/G
1.53 HR/G
We can compare these stats to other pitchers in MLB to see what Bush would look like if he improved in only one area.

Strikeout More People, But Still Give Up Lots of Homers

There aren't too many pitchers who have the same BB/G and HR/G as Bush but strikeout more guys. Here's the closest three that I could find:
Bruce Chen
6.1   K/G
2.9  BB/G
1.34 HR/G
Mike Maroth
5.3   K/G
2.3  BB/G
1.37 HR/G
Jose Contreras
6.4   K/G
4.0  BB/G
1.32 HR/G
Not a great group of pitchers. Note that all of these guys also walk more guys than Bush: Chen and Contreras significantly more so. It's probably hard to strikeout this many guys without walking a few more or allowing a few less homers, since you're probably keeping the ball off the plate a bit more.

Walk Almost No One

There's a couple of pitchers in this group, but neither one is a great comp for Bush:
Carlos Silva
3.5   K/G
0.5  BB/G
1.33 HR/G
David Wells
5.1   K/G
1.1  BB/G
1.23 HR/G
Silva is a freak - I can't think of any other pitcher in MLB like him. David Wells has his quirks as well and they're not all related to his BB/G stats.

Cut Down on the Homers

If you do this, you get a decent enough group of pitchers, but no real superstars. Gitz is right: you still have to strike some guys out. Here are three guys with similar K/G and BB/G rates as Bush, but a lot less HR/G:
Kenny Rogers
4.1   K/G
2.6  BB/G
0.58 HR/G
Kyle Lohse
4.3   K/G
2.1  BB/G
0.85 HR/G
Jon Garland
4.5   K/G
1.9  BB/G
0.86 HR/G
Note that Bush's walk rate is lower than for all three of these guys.

Combining Factors

Bush can still have great success in the league giving up homers at the same rate he is now. What he needs to do is raise the K/G rate a bit and get his BB/G rate quite low. Then he could end up like this guy:
Brad Radke
5.5   K/G
0.7  BB/G
1.45 HR/G
Is it possible? I certainly think so, though it may take time. It wasn't until Radke's seventh season that his walk rate went from low to head turning. There were struggles along the way: In his second season he gave up an eye-popping 40 home runs and went 11-16. The next year? He won 20 games. Let's give this Bush kid a chance. He could end up surprising us.
Jays 9 - Royals 4 | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Andrew K - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 09:43 AM EDT (#123657) #
I think it's an interesting analysis, Mike, but I am not entirely convinced that changes in K/BB/HR are a way to discuss how a pitcher should develop. For sure, K/BB/HR are good *indicators* of a pitchers abilities and changes in ability, but they are not themselves something which a pitcher might change. Instead, a pitcher might improve his command of the strike zone, pitch with more power or more finesse, pitch lower in the zone, etc, all of which could affect the rate stats.

For another thing, as you say, K/BB/HR rates are not going to be independent. And it does ignore the GB/FB ratio, which is surely extremely important in saying what type a pitcher is.

In the same way, we don't really expect a batter to "increase his SLG" (although we might ask him to hit with more power, and then we would have to accept a higher strikeout rate) and I wouldn't talk about a batter increasing his BB rate (instead, we might ask him to improve his plate discipline).

It's not to say that I don't agree with your conclusion as to what we'd like to see, but I think it confuses the act of pitching with the indicators of pitching ability.

Finally, I also think we should accept that Bush is not a pitcher with overpoweringly great stuff. I think this is a concensus view. I don't think he will win 20 games. But he could be a useful lower-half of rotation starter, if sometimes a bit prone to getting hit. Of course, anyone might develop an unhittable cutter or splitter and turn into something special.
Chuck - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 11:24 AM EDT (#123662) #
Where have all the K's gone? He struck about 6 per 9 IP last year.

It's disappointing that we're suddenly likening Bush to Towers. We started the season thinking he had the goods to be a solid #3 starter, and now we're looking at the skillset of a #5 starter.
Jobu - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 11:30 AM EDT (#123663) #
Allow me to put on my retro cap and play along with Mo' Phats game. It's like stepping into a time machine...all the way back to a time of Dave Berg and Cuttlefish... all the way back to 2004:

Dave was so pleased with his first win this season that he took the whole team out for dinner and ROCKED the local KC red LOBSTER. He bought a round of b-52s for everyone, but Doc preffered his sasparilla.
JayFan0912 - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 11:42 AM EDT (#123664) #
I think bush struggled because he did not have control of his pitches early in the season ... and too often got into hitters count. Since hitters knew he was a control pitchers they zoomed in on the plate and hit the longball.

The key for bush is to get ahead in the count, hit the corners, and expand the strike zone which is what he did better yesterday. I think that he can be a #3 starter as long as he has consistent control of all his pitches.

Jdog - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 11:50 AM EDT (#123665) #
Where have all the K's gone

Well I think the biggest factor leading to less K's for Bush this year is his weakened curve ball. I agree with Andrew in the fact that you can't simply tell Bush he needs to lower his BB rate and higher his K rate. Arnsberg has got to work with him on his single pitches. The biggest thing will be getting his slow curve back to where it was last year, he seemed to get a lot of guys looking at that pitch for strike 3 last year, that and it keeps them off the fastball.
Magpie - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 12:06 PM EDT (#123666) #
Where have all the K's gone

A minor factor might also be that his starts have all come against either a) the AL teams that strike out less than the league average, or b) Boston.

Chuck - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#123670) #
A minor factor might also be that his starts have all come against either a) the AL teams that strike out less than the league average, or b) Boston.

Wasn't aware that his starts have been disproportionately against these teams.

If there's ultimately a Walker vs. Bush decision to be made (or a George vs. Walker vs. Bush decision, for that matter), it's got to be Bush, right? For all his struggles, he's been no less effective than Towers and Lilly.

Magpie - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#123672) #
Wasn't aware that his starts have been disproportionately against these teams.

Luck of the draw. I really don't think it's that big a deal. I saw a Rotoworld note that 9 of Bush's first 10 starts came against contenders. I wondered if it might have something to do with his K rate.

The top five AL teams in striking out are Texas, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Seattle. Bush has started three times against Boston and been killed - the Red Sox can do that. He hasn't faced the other four.

But still... probably not that big a deal.

Craig B - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 01:17 PM EDT (#123673) #
Well said, Andrew. A pitcher may well take an improvement (or slide) in those numbers as indicators of success, but strikeouts, walks and home runs are far too large a "chunk" to be useful goals for pitchers to pursue.

The goals you mentioned are useful, but even those are quite large-grained targets. Useful target goals for pitchers might also include:

* increasing the number of first-pitch and 1-1 strikes
* increasing the number of swings-and-misses
* reducing the number of breaking pitches in the top half of the strike zone (and increasing the number of fastballs there) with men on base
* reducing the time taken between pitches

All of those are indicators, but more fine-grained ones, of successful pitching. They embody what I increasingly consider to be the four central mantras of good pitching. In order : throw strikes, get movement on your pitches, keep the ball down, and work quickly. The more I've studied this issue, the more I've realized that there's hardly a single great pitcher who doesn't excel in three or four of these categories. The exception is those pitchers with truly exceptional velocity, who can get by without movement if they throw strikes and work with despatch.

What's more, when good pitchers struggle (aside from injury situations) it's often associated with one of these. Take Johan Santana for example, who's had a pretty bad year by his standards. Santana's not doing a lot that's different from normal, but he's getting far fewer batters to swing and miss this year - much less movement than usual. A pitcher in that situation may need to alter his approach, perhaps dialing down the velocity in order to catch better movement and make the pitch more crisply.

The relative importance of the four goals changes from pitch to pitch, hitter to hitter, situation to situation. Facing Lou Gehrig, nothing was as important as keeping the ball as low as possible - if he could see it, he could kill it. Facing Mike Piazza, who regularly hits home runs off his toecaps, it's almost totally unimportant. With two out and the bases empty, early strikes are far less important but keeping the ball down is paramount. Leading off the inning, the 0-0 and 1-1 strikes are absolutely crucial, and a high strike isn't a bad idea at all. With one out and a runner on third, nothing matters as much as getting nasty movement on everything. But the goals themselves remain static with every pitch.
Jim - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 02:49 PM EDT (#123677) #
Courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Quality of batters faced 2005 Jays.

OBP/Slug ranked by highest OBP

Halladay 337/439 (I believe at one point in the year BP said he had faced the 'hardest' batters in the league).
Lilly 335/425
Chacin 335/429
Bush 332/418
Walker 331/424
Towers 329/414

I know it isn't exactly related to K-Rate, but Bush hasn't been disadvantaged against his teamates. Against the league he probably has, but that's life in the AL East.
Jim - Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 02:56 PM EDT (#123678) #
I dug up the oldstyle BP report. Out of every pitcher who has thrown a pitch in the majors this year, Bush ranks at 275th out of 558 in the majors. So he's almost the dead median as far as quality of batter's faced.

If you throw out any pitcher who faced fewer batters then Bush, he ranks 29th out of 152 in OBP, and 53rd in SLG. Certainly seems like where you would expect AL East pitchers to fit into the stats.
Jays 9 - Royals 4 | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.