Bush’s Near No-No

Before Matt Stairs connected in the 8th inning for a solo home run to end Dave Bush’s no-hitter, I was trying to figure out how on earth Bush was getting hitters out. He wasn’t exactly dominating with raw stuff.

Take a look at some of the graphs from Dan Brooks Pitch F/x tool.

His fastest pitch of the day was 90.4 MPH. He threw a variety of fastballs, ranging from 86 to 90, averaging around 88 MPH. The algorithm identified another 21 pitches as change-ups, ranging from 81 to 86 MPH. Some of them were probably just fastballs with a little bit taken off, though. He also mixed in some cut fastball/slider type in the low to mid-80s, and topped it off with a big slow curve that averaged 68 MPH.

If I went to a high school game and saw a right-handed pitcher topping out at 90 without much sink and featuring a curve that hit 70 with some wind behind it, I’d assume that he had a pretty good chance of not getting drafted this summer. It’s just not the kind of stuff you expect to encounter in a major league starting pitcher, especially a righty.

To have that kind of stuff throwing a no-hitter at the defending World Champs is enough to make you fall out of your chair.

Bush is the kind of guy who thrives on throwing strikes, but he didn’t even really do that today. Check out this chart:


That’s not painting the corners and peppering the strike zone to get ahead of hitters. 45 of his 111 pitches were outside of the Pitch F/x strikezone (which isn’t perfectly accurate, of course). Most of the stuff in the strike zone is on the higher side, which helps explain the 10 flyouts. There’s just nothing there that indicates “tough to hit”.

Help me out, Brewers fans. How on earth was Dave Bush able to hold down a line-up with some pretty good left-handed bats while throwing high school velocity and locating it up in the strike zone?

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

29 Responses to “Bush’s Near No-No”

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  1. B says:

    A lot of luck.

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  2. Jim says:

    Last year, I believe, he also had a late inning no-hit bid. I wanna say against the Blue Jays. It didn’t’ make too much sense then, either.

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    • OsandRoayals says:

      If it was against the Blue Jays it would make sense as the Jays were pretty poor offensively last year

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  3. Rob in CT says:

    Some sort of deception that pitch FX can’t tell you about (hiding the ball, something in his motion, etc)?

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  4. Jay says:

    A few notes from the data:

    Only 5 swing-and-misses on 113 pitches. Hitters were never able to get good contact against him. 30 of the 57 swings against him were fouled off. 42% (30-72) of his strikes came on foul balls.

    Bush didn’t come in and challenge the Phillies. 49 of his 113 pitches (43.4%) were located on the outside:
    OOZ Away Away Middle In OOZ In
    Pitches 24 25 37 14 11
    Strikes 7 21 29 9 4
    OOZ = out of the (strike) zone.

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    • Jay says:

      Sorry about that awful formatting.


      OOZ Away: 7-24
      Away: 21-25
      Middle: 29-37
      Inside: 9-14
      OOZ In: 4-11

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  5. Joe says:

    “How on earth was Dave Bush able to hold down a line-up with some pretty good left-handed bats while throwing high school velocity and locating it up in the strike zone?”

    What percentage of high school pitchers throw close to 90 MPH? Fewer than five percent, I bet. A pitcher with that stuff would get drafted as well. Perhaps you were being facetious, but you obviously never played high school baseball if you think throwing 90 is a common occurrence.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      It was an obvious joke, and I played HS baseball. But thanks for stopping by.

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      • Jason says:

        Point taken, but in his defense it didn’t read like a joke. Now excuse me while I go and pick up D. Bush in every fantasy league I am in.
        *rolls eyes*
        (see how that made it clearer?)

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  6. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher, and as long as those flyballs stay in the park, he gets a lot of outs. How he gets flyballs rather than line drives with his stuff, I don’t know, but he’s been like that for pretty much his whole career, as far as I can tell.

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  7. Conballs says:

    I think it’s the beard. Mesmerizing…

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  8. rwperu34 says:

    It looks like he’s got a lot of movement on his fastball.

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  9. Dustin says:

    The phrase “hit it where they ain’t” would have been helpful for them. I would assume that the contact they made went right to the fielders…

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  10. LukeW says:

    Bush has always been underappreciated. From 2006-2008 Bush has averaged 193 IP with a 1.23 WHIP. For the same time period Roy Oswalt has averaged 213 innings with a 1.23 WHIP.

    Bush may not be a staff ace, but he gets the job done somehow and has been for some time now.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      That’s a really inaccurate portrayal. While WHIP is better than ERA in terms of telling us how good a pitcher was, it is in no way a be-all and end-all, and it’s still isn’t independent of the luck component from BAbip. In 2006, Bush was pretty damn good. 4.37 K/BB, acceptable HR/9, decent GB/FB ratio, got burned by a pretty low strand rate, which isn’t really his fault. In 2007, that K/BB, while still decent, dropped down to 3.05. His HR spiked, and while he was hurt by a kind of high BABip, he really wasn’t as good as the previous version. 2008, he continued to decline across the board. His ability to strike batters out evaporated, posting merely a 5.30 K/9. Couple that with worsening control, and his K/BB was now only 2.27. His HR rate continued to climb, and it wasn’t because of a high HR/FB; he was just giving up many more FB. In fact, luck was the only reason his woes were masked, as his strand rate got back to normal and his BAbip plummeted. This is why his FIP rose from 3.98 in ’06 to 4.93 last year. Dave Bush is not good, and he’s getting worse.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      WHIP treats home runs the same as singles. And Bush allows a crap load of homers.

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  11. Xeifrank says:

    My guess is and I didn’t see the game, so it’s only an educated guess, is that it was a combination of mostly luck and good defense. You figure to throw a no-hitter with only 5 strike-outs, you are going to have 22 balls in play. The average BABIP against for almost all pitchers is right around the .300 mark. That would take some enormous luck plus some good defense to do. It would probably also help if the wind were blowing in a little and you had a few of your walks erased on double plays.
    vr, Xei

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  12. don says:

    Lots of popups, and good luck.

    Certainly not control – he walked 3 and hit 2 batters.

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  13. Kaz says:

    Who knows, he must have some deception in his delivery, because this is his 3rd near no hitter (broken up in 8th) in 6 seasons. One thing though, is that his slow curve is not what would you expect. It isn’t a big looping type curve like Lilly or Livan Hernandez. Rather it has surprising late bite to it, as if it speeds up and drops at the end and can catch batters by surprise. As a pitcher he tries to induce popups with his cutter and high fastballs, he is a flyball pitcher and just hopes to keep the ball in the park. If he does, he is very good like today.

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    • David says:

      You would think, though, that having seen hundreds of Dave Bush innings, at least the experienced hitters would know how to get hits off him…

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  14. Ender says:

    His curveball is much better than you suggest, Phillies hitters were more or less completely hopeless against it. It comes in looking like a fastball and then drops low and outside to a RH so there is absolutely no hope to put good contact on it if you swing.

    The umpire was generous on the outside corner to all pitchers in the game which really plays into Bush’s strength.

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  15. Ender says:

    Oh and also he got ahead of most of the hitters. Last year getting ahead in the count dropped the average pitchers BABIP against from .305 to .290, seems like a small difference but it is significant. If you get ahead you will find more success almost every time.

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  16. Kaz says:

    also, through his career Bush has been the pitcher who dominates throughout most of the game, but has 1 bad inning. For many pitchers this occurs like say the 3rd time they face the lineup, but for Bush it seems to be random. Sometimes he gives up 3 in the 1st, and then pitch 5 more scoreless, or maybe it occurs in the 4th or the 7th. What ever the reason, Bush has been an odd pitcher for sure. He has been pretty solid and puts up good secondary numbers, despite having seemingly non dominating stuff.

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  17. Evan says:

    Clearly the Brewers need to aim better.

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  18. dragonflyball says:

    I didn’t get it last summer and I still don’t get it, but the Brewers sure needed it today, since both the “you mean if we score more runs than they do, we win?” and the “you mean if we don’t let them score more runs than we do, we win?” parts of the equation are spotty for them, and this time they actually got both.

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  19. brewersfan729 says:

    Help me out, Brewers fans. How on earth was Dave Bush able to hold down a line-up with some pretty good left-handed bats while throwing high school velocity and locating it up in the strike zone?

    He got ahead of 18 of 25 hitters before the no hitter was broken up. Nobody could touch his curveball (and nobody really can when he’s locating it) which he was today. Same as last year against the Phillies in the playoffs, he located his curveball and made Jayson Werth look absolutely foolish on one of them.

    He probably did get some luck as there were a few hard hit balls to straight away center and it was fairly windy today.

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  20. LukeW says:

    Philly is not hitting yet either. Their .263 team BA to date is behind Washington. (Jimmy Rollins is an absolute drag on my fantasy team right now!) To the Phil’s credit, they only have 71 team Ks so far, easily best in MLB.

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  21. DaveBush says:

    A lot of luck

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