The Curious Case of Dave Bush

Dave Bush continues to churn out the quality starts, but there’s still one question running through the minds of a lot of fans — how the hell is he doing it?

July 05, 2010- Milwaukee, WI. Miller Park..Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Dave Bush  pitched for 6 solid innings giving up 1 run and 5 hits to the San Francisco Giants. .Milwaukee Brewers lost to the San Francisco Giants 1-6..Mike McGinnis / CSM.

Comparing this season to last season, his K/9 is down from 7.01 to 4.89 (8th lowest among NL starters), is BB/9 is up from 2.91 to 3.76, and his WHIP is up a touch from 1.47 to 1.49.

Bush has seen improvements, though, in a number of categories that might help us understand what’s going on.

His HR/9 is down from a career-high 1.50 to 1.03, opponents are hitting him for a lower average overall (from .289 to .276) and on balls in play (.324 to .297), he’s improved his GB/FB ratio from 0.77 to 1.10, and he’s allowing less line drives.

I think to find the biggest reason for Bush’s good results lately, though, you have to look at how deep he is (or isn’t) pitching into games.  Remember how we’d always criticize Ken Macha and Ned Yost for leaving Bush in the game far too long, just trying to get him through 7 innings? 

That’s not a problem this year.  If you give Macha credit for one thing this year, it should be for being proactive with Bush and taking him out at the first sign of trouble, no matter how manageable his pitch count looks. 

Bush’s pitch counts in his starts since the debacle in Minnesota: 102, 86, 107, 96, 98, 99, 101, 90.  That’s right, in his past five starts, Bush has thrown over 100 pitches once.  This isn’t something that just popped up after that night in Minnesota, either — before that start, Bush had pitch counts of 96, 77, 96, 87, 108, 95, 102, and 99.

So, when we’re trying to figure out how Bush’s pitching lines always seem to end up looking better this year, maybe it’s as simple as Macha taking him out of the game before he starts hanging curves and grooving his 86 MPH fastball.  I’m sure it’s not the only factor working in Bush’s favor, but it certainly can’t be hurting him.

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