Jays 9 - Royals 4

Sunday, July 24 2005 @ 08:39 AM EDT

Contributed by: Pepper Moffatt

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.