Former Padres #1 Draft Pick Matt Bush has made it to the Major Leagues as a member of the Texas Rangers, 10 years after being drafted 1st overall by the Padres.
Matt Bush has seen it all. From first overall pick in the MLB June Amateur draft to biting a bouncer for being drunk underage during spring training to elbow reconstruction surgery to a pretty gruesome car accident to prison inmate to plunking Jose Bautista and inciting an epic brawl. Matt Bush has already been the centerpiece of more stories in his 30 years than most of us will lay claim to at the end of our lives. But there are hundreds of stories about his trials and tribulations, so let’s look at this pitch selection and the chances he sticks in the Rangers bullpen.
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He has, thus far this season, averaged 96.9 MPH on his fastball. To put that in perspective, Brandon Maurer averages 95.5, Fernando Rodney averages 95.3, Kevin Quackenbush sits at 90.6 and Andrew Cashner sits at 93.9, albeit over a longer stint. Nobody in the Padres bullpen throws as hard as Bush. But, this is a grand total of 58 pitches into his big league career. And there is more to pitching than throwing hard. In his last season before the calamitous ride through Port Charlotte Bush struck out 77 batters in 50 and 1/3 IP.
His K/9 rate of 13.8K/9IP led the league by almost 9%, a huge margin. This league also included future major league studs Matt Moore of the Rays, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin of the D’Backs and Ryan Buchter, now of your own San Diego Padres. Bush led them all in strikeout rate, by a wide margin. 9% is like winning the home run title with 50 dingers and the next guy only having 45ish.
So, what does Matt Bush have in his arsenal other than a big heater? Well, he appears to feature a slider and a curveball with his 4 seam fastball, and the slider appears to be pretty good. In a game against Oakland on the 17th he threw it three times, wasn’t touched. He threw it twice in a game on the 15th and it was fouled off once. He did throw a LOT of fastballs in those games though, and for the most part it yielded good results.
However, to sustain long term success he will need to expand his repertoire to include the slider more as the hitters in the big leagues can hit 97 MPH fastballs, just ask Tyson Ross. In his seasons with the A’s he threw his slider about 23% of the time, and the last two years he has thrown it 41% of the time, and found greatly increased levels of success in those two years.
Padres fans may want to curse him in the same vein as Ryan Leaf for being a huge bust, but it should be noted that in the 2004 draft an astounding 34 of the 41 “first round” picks, including compensation picks, made it to the big leagues. That is the highest percentage in the last 20 years, and I stopped looking at 1996. However, the only superstar in that draft was Justin Verlander. Indeed, only Verlander, Huston Street, Gio Gonzalez, Phil Hughes and Jered Weaver have even made an All Star team from that draft, and there are only ten appearances amongst that group.
Yes, Matt Bush was a bust for the Padres, but in that draft they could have had a bunch of misses. The only home run would have been Verlander, and you don’t know how he would have developed in San Diego. He may not have turned into Mr. Kate Upton.
Matt Bush has had a long and largely self-destructive past decade, but he has found a place in Arlington where he can throw a baseball and succeed in a game he knows and loves. He has served his time and time will tell whether he has a future in this game. Studies show that 62% of all players last less than six years in the big leagues, with 34.5% of them lasting less than two seasons. At 30 years old Bush, with little wear and tear on his arm after four years off from baseball, could fit into the 38% that go more than 6 years, but he probably needs to use his slider a little more.