Stats & Info: Dave Bush

Brewing up a special rotation in Milwaukee

December, 19, 2010
12/19/10
2:03
PM ET
Just when it appeared the Milwaukee Brewers were caught in the middle between contention and rebuilding, the team continues its complete overhaul of its starting pitching staff, acquiring 2009 AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a bevy of prospects. While the merits of the prospects will certainly be debated, what cannot be argued is that Greinke makes the Brewers staff among the most formidable in the National League.

Greinke followed up his 2009 Cy Young campaign with a solid, if unspectacular 2010. His traditional numbers were not very good (10-14, 4.17), his K/9 rate had a significant drop (from 9.50 to 7.40, closer to his career average) and his HR/9 rate nearly doubled, from 0.43 to 0.74. But many of Greinke’s problems in 2010 were not his fault.

Zack Greinke
Greinke
Greinke posted a career-high ground-ball percentage (46.0%), but he was doing so with terrible fielders responsible for getting to all those ground balls. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Kansas City was 30th in all of baseball in Defensive Runs Saved in 2010 (-88). Greinke’s FIP (3.34) was over three-quarters of a run better than his ERA. The 2010 Brewers were league-average defensively last season (-0.7, 16th in Team UZR), but that represents a drastic improvement for Greinke.

One red flag is Yuniesky Betancourt, who is coming with Greinke to the Brewers. Betancourt was the third-worst starting shortstop in MLB in 2010 based on UZR (-9.5) and the less he plays at shortstop for the 2011 Brewers, the better.

Milwaukee acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays on December 6th, giving the Brewers a right-hander with success against the power bats of the AL East. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Marcum had an impressive 2010, going 13-8 with an ERA of 3.64 and a nearly equal FIP of 3.74. He had a very low walk rate in 2010 (1.98 BB/9), despite the fact that only 48.7% of all strikes he threw were in the strike zone.

Shaun Marcum
Marcum
Marcum is adept at getting hitters to chase, with nearly a third of all swings against him being on pitches outside the zone (30.4%). Marcum had a significant change in his arsenal coming off of Tommy John surgery. He threw a higher percentage of fastballs in 2010 than he had in 2008 with the Blue Jays (from 48.3% to 61.2%). He also threw a greater percentage of changeups (23.2% to 24.1%), but was more effective, with his batting average against his changeup dropping from .213 to .152.

Clearly, the Brewers can expect an upgrade in performance from their staff. But just how much? By using the Wins Above Replacement statistic, it’s possible to estimate how much of an upgrade Greinke and Marcum will be.

In 2010, the Brewers’ fourth and fifth starters -- Dave Bush and Manny Parra -- combined to give the team 47 starts, going 10-20, 5.09 ERA. That combined production was worth -0.1 Wins Above Replacement.

On the flip side, Greinke contributed 5.2 WAR and Marcum chipped in 3.5. So, assuming Greinke and Marcum repeat their performances from 2010 -- a reasonable suggestion -- the Brewers stand to gain nearly nine wins. That’s the difference between 77-85 and 86-76. Or, between non-contention and contention.

1st Pitch: Pujols pursues 400

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
3:13
PM ET
Today’s Trivia:
After going deep last night in Pittsburgh, Albert Pujols is now one home run away from his 400th career HR. Pujols' first career longball came in April of 2001 off of Armando Reynoso and the Arizona Diamondbacks. What did Pujols do in that game that he ALSO did last night? Hint: it’s something he has now done 26 times in his career. Pujols

Bonus: Obviously, Busch Stadium is the park where Pujols has gone deep the most. But which Busch Stadium – the one that closed in 2005 (Busch II) or the one that opened in 2006 (Busch III)?

Quick Hits:
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Rafael Soriano accomplished a rare baseball feat on Monday (a feat with a cool-sounding moniker to match its impressiveness): the Immaculate Inning. Such an inning requires striking out the side on nine pitches, which Soriano did against Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli and Peter Bourjos. Soriano

So rare is the feat that it has only been done 44 times in MLB history. Let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who have pulled off the Immaculate Inning, according to baseball-almanac.com:

• Only three have done the feat twice, and all three are Hall-of-Famers: Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. No one has done it three times.

• An Immaculate Inning has occurred in every inning, though it is most common late in games. It’s happened nine times in the ninth, seven times in the eighth and four times in the seventh.

• There are some pretty solid sluggers who have been on the other end of an Immaculate Inning. Ken Boyer was part of one thrown by Bob Bruce in 1964. Andre Dawson and Rafael Palmeiro were both part of one thrown by Jeff Robinson in 1987. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have each been victims, though in different games. Even contact machine Ichiro Suzuki fell prey to one, but in his defense, it was done by Pedro Martinez.

• From Elias: The last closer to get a save while striking out the side on nine pitches in the ninth inning was LaTroy Hawkins in September 2004 for the Chicago Cubs.

• Call it the Rich Harden connection: On the same night Harden was pulled in the middle of a no-hitter, Soriano threw his Immaculate Inning. But Harden has an I.I. of his own, and it came in the first inning. He did it in June 2008 with the Oakland Athletics against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

• Koufax is the only one to throw an Immaculate Inning that turned into an immaculate game. His first Immaculate Inning came in his first no-hitter – on June 30, 1962 - and was also done in the first inning. His immaculaticity (not a word) ended in the second inning when the New York Mets’ Frank Thomas grounded out to short.

• And finally, a Lou Piniella connection. Piniella managed the 1991 Cincinnati Reds to a 74-88 record and fifth place division finish. But that might not have been the worst of it. That team, featuring Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo and Hal Morris, is the only team in MLB history to have two Immaculate Innings thrown against them in the same season. Andy Ashby and David Cone did it to them that year.

Today’s Leaderboard:
It’s becoming one of the classic adages in the sport – if you let the leadoff man get on base in an inning, he’s going to come around to hurt you. Well, don’t pity the leadoff men tonight. Several of the pitchers who are the top culprits in letting the leadoff man get on base are starting for their teams on Tuesday.

Key Matchups:
• Ichiro has been an All-Star every year of his 10-year MLB career and has never batted below .303 in a season. But none of that might be true if he had to face Josh Beckett in every at-bat. Beckett is limiting Ichiro to a career .190 BA (4-21) with more strikeouts (five) than hits. Among pitchers who have faced Ichiro at least 20 times, Beckett is the starter who’s holding him to the lowest average.

• These numbers don’t seem to match up: Adam Wainwright has a perfect 5-0 record at PNC Park, yet a pedestrian 5.56 ERA there. Among parks where Wainwright has pitched more than once, he has a higher era at only Dodger Stadium. Turns out, you can chalk up his sparkling record at PNC to run support. His offense has scored an average of 7.43 runs in games he started there.

• There’s a new Cincinnati Reds rookie starter in town, and he’s not named Mike Leake. Travis Wood takes the mound in San Francisco tonight, making his 10th career start. No Giant has seen him before, but they might want to know these numbers. Wood is allowing a .135 BA his first time through the lineup, but that jumps to .184 his second time through and .222 his third time through.

Trivia Answer: In both games, Pujols finished a triple shy of the cycle. In fact, Pujols has never hit for the cycle in his career despite coming a triple shy of it on 26 occasions. He has finished a home run shy of the cycle twice and finished a double shy of the cycle once.

The bonus question was a trick question. Sort of. Pujols has the exact same number of home runs at both Busch Stadiums – 94 at each.

1st Pitch: The league leaders you never see

June, 30, 2010
6/30/10
1:53
PM ET
Quick Hits: Not all statistical categories are created equal, but they all have a leader. Let’s take a look at some of the more obscure – and in some cases meaningless – league leaders.
  • On Tuesday, David Murphy reached base by catcher’s interference for the third time this season, which leads the majors. The last player with more than 3 in a season? Edwin Encarnacion who had four in 2007.
  • Derek Jeter leads the majors with 181 ground balls, 22 more than the next player, according to STATS LLC. Having led the majors with 316 in 2009, Jeter is on pace for 385 grounders this season.
  • Carlos Lee is tops with 114 fly balls, though Rod Barajas has 108 in 89 fewer at-bats than Lee.
  • Vladimir Guerrero has swung at the first pitch 152 times, which is 14 more than Vernon Wells. Over the last 35 years, the most first pitch swings in a season belongs to Nomar Garciaparra (381 in 2003).
  • Rafael Betancourt and Carlos Villanueva have both had three batters reach on a strikeout. Yet, it hasn’t happened to Tim Wakefield this season. He is the active leader in that category with 46 in his career.
  • Zack Greinke has had the most batters reach on an error (8), but not the most unearned runs. That would be Felipe Paulino with 11.
  • Ross Ohlendorf leads the majors with four pickoff errors, which is more than every other team except the Tigers.
  • The Dodgers have had seven hitters reach on a strikeout, a huge number when you consider that 26 of 30 teams have three or fewer.
  • Dave Bush leads the majors with seven sacrifice flies against with seven. But how about the Diamondbacks’ Carlos Rosa? He’s given up five sac flies in just 13.1 innings of work.
  • Derek Lowe is on pace to issue 18 intentional walks, which would be the most since Roger McDowell’s 20 in 1991.
  • Justin Verlander has had the most pitches fouled off with 370.
Today’s Trivia: Denard Span tied the modern record with three triples in a game on Tuesday, the first player to do that since Rafael Furcal in 2002. Who holds the record for most at-bats in a season without a triple?

Today’s Leaderboard: Dustin Pedroia leads the majors having fouled off 294 pitches, according to Inside Edge. That accounts for 46.7 percent of the swings he’s taken. Ichiro Suzuki (271) is the only other player with more than 260 fouls this season.

Key Matchups: Paul Konerko is the batter that Zack Greinke has faced most in his career. He’s held the White Sox slugger to a .137 batting average in 51 at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the second lowest batting average in a matchup between two current AL players (min. 40 at-bats). Nick Swisher’s .111 in 45 AB against John Lackey is the only one worse.

Of the 27 times that Adrian Gonzalez and Jeff Francis have done battle, the Padres slugger has struck out 11 times, or 40.7 percent of the time. That’s his highest K rate against any pitcher he’s faced at least 20 times. Overall, Gonzalez has hit .154 with a .454 OPS against Francis. The two haven’t faced off since 2008, but Francis has struck out Gonzalez in five of the last six at-bats and retired him nine times in a row.

Trivia Answer: Aaron Hill was without a triple in 682 at-bats last season, which set a record according the Elias Sports Bureau. In fact, he is in the midst of a streak of 1,394 consecutive at-bats without a triple. It’s rather ironic for a player whose first career hit was a triple.

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