Despite meaning little to either organization, Wednesday's game between the Mets and Brewers held some meaning. After holding the Mets scoreless for six innings, Dave Bush was pulled in what will likely be his final start in a Brewers uniform.
This is a tough post to write for me considering Dave Bush is one of my favorite Brewers. I've always seen him as a reliable pitcher who, although not spectacular, was a good value to the organization. Could he throw in the upper 90's? No. Could he be considered an ace? No, but Bush always seemed to somehow contribute something to the team. His fastball topped out in the mid to upper 80's and he gave up his fare share of gopher balls, but at the end of the year, his numbers suggested just how underrated he was.
Bush was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2005 offseason as part of the trade that sent Lyle Overbay out of town. At the time, I considered Bush and Zach Jackson a relatively minor return for Overbay, but Bush came into Milwaukee firing strike after strike. His 2006 season was very impressive. Bush went 12-11 that year and posted a 4.41 ERA. Although those numbers might not blow you away, his advanced numbers suggested a much different outcome.
In 2006, Bush registered as a near four WAR player. His strikeout to walk ratio was a mere 4:1. Speaking of walks, Bush just didn't issue them. His 1.63 BB/9 ranked next to the top in the NL. His FIP was a much more respectable 3.98. Easy to say, the future looked bright for Bush.
Although Bush was useful in his next four seasons, he just wasn't the same pitcher. After his 3.8 WAR season in 2006, Bush combined for just 3.1 WAR from '07 to '10. His strikeouts and walks were still decent, although not as impressive. So, what lead to Bush's average seasons? Simply, Bush wasn't able to keep the ball on the ground.
In 2006, Bush induced grounders 46.6% of the time. He saw that number consistently drop over the next three seasons ('07: 43.4%, '08: 41.1%, '09: 34.4%). This season, Bush was able to up that total to a still disappointing 39.7% of the time. Combine those numbers with Bush's tendency to allow the bleacher bums to take home a souvenir. He was very consistent over that time frame by average a HR every 12% of the time a ball was hit in the air in just about every season. While that is just above average for a pitcher, Bush allowed many more flyballs than the average hurler. More flyballs led to many more home runs.
As Bush's command and ability to avoid bleachers left, so did they majority of his success. It all culminated this season when Bush was only able to produce a 0.1 WAR season. A season that will likely be his final in Milwaukee.
I really like Dave Bush, but he's just not that good of a pitcher anymore. After this season, Bush will be a free agent. I just don't see the Brewers spending free agent money on him. Sure he's a relatively decent (way too close to replacement level) option at the back end of a rotation, but the Brewers really have no need for that. After the emergence of Chris Capuano and Chris Narveson, Bush's days were numbered. He will be missed in Milwaukee, but if Bush makes another start in a Brewers uniform, Doug Melvin will have done something wrong.
I was there in Game 3 of the 2008 NLDS, when Bush was able to pitch the Brewers to their first playoff win in a quarter of a century. He was a big reason the Brewers even made the playoffs that season. Thanks for the memories Dave. Your contributions to this organization didn't go unnoticed.