In the best performance of his career, Dave Bush threw a complete-game, five-hit shutout against the Houston Astros on Sunday. In the process, the Milwaukee right-hander whiffed 10 without allowing a single walk. He faced a total of 31 batters, recording 23 of the 27 outs via Ks or groundballs.
Bush has now struck out 41 and walked only four in his last nine starts. After yielding 23 homers in his first 25 games, Bush hasn't given up a roundtripper in his last four. During this period, the 26-year-old with a plus curve has induced 45 GB and 19 FB while striking out 6.32 batters per 100 pitches - a rate that would place him second in the N.L. over a full season.
For the year, Bush is tied for third in the league in WHIP (1.16). Importantly, the man with the pinpoint control has lowered his BB/9 (from 1.91 to 1.70) and HR/9 (1.32 to 1.09) and raised his K/9 (4.95 to 7.27) by nearly 50% from one season to the next. His Defense Independent Pitching (3.88) and Fielding Independent Pitching (3.85) are considerably better than his ERA (4.44). In fact, his DIPS and FIP rank 11th and 13th, respectively, while the difference between his FIP and ERA is the fourth highest in the league.
The three-year veteran is one of the most efficient pitchers in baseball. He has averaged just 14.5 pitches per inning, the fifth-lowest total in the majors. The top four? Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay, Chien-Ming Wang, and Brandon Webb.
Bush is arguably more like Chris Carpenter than not. They have two of the best Uncle Charlies in the game. Furthermore, these hurlers have similar K and BB rates. The main difference is that last year's Cy Young Award winner does an even better job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. Nonetheless, Bush is more advanced than Carpenter at the same age. The latter didn't break out until his first year with the Cardinals when he was 29. Putting Bush in Carpenter's class may be a bit premature, but I believe it captures the younger hurler's upside. Based on his improved command and results of late, it wouldn't surprise me if Bush made a big push in narrowing whatever gap there exists within the next year.
A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush. But a Bush in hand may be the best bet of 'em all.