October 25, 2010

Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #40 Randy Bush

Robert Randall Bush | RF/LF/1B/DH | 1982-1993 | Career Stats

Selected out of the University of New Orleans by the Twins in the second round of the 1979 draft, Randy Bush struggled in his first two minor-league seasons before hitting .290 with 22 homers and 94 RBIs in 136 games at Double-A in 1981. After hitting well at Triple-A to start the 1982 season, he was called up to Minnesota and made his MLB debut against the Brewers on May 1, 1982 by pinch-hitting for catcher Sal Butera leading off the bottom of the ninth inning.

With the Twins trailing by one run Bush struck out against Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers, but he went on to hit a respectable .244/.305/.412 in 55 games as a 23-year-old rookie and never returned to the minors. A left-handed hitter, Bush quickly took on what would become a career-long role as a platoon player and bench bat. He never received 500 plate appearances during a season, but typically came to the plate 350-450 times and put up solid numbers.

His career splits are extreme to say the least, with a .255/.338/.422 line off righties compared to a .152/.250/.232 mark against southpaws, and Bush had an absurdly low total of 118 plate appearances versus lefties in a dozen major-league seasons. Had his career started in 2002, rather than 1982, Ron Gardenhire likely would've used Bush nearly every day and stubbornly watched him struggle against lefties much like he did with Jacque Jones and Jason Kubel.

Instead under managers Billy Gardner and Tom Kelly he was allowed to thrive in a role that magnified his strengths and lessened his weaknesses. The fact that he averaged fewer than 10 trips to the plate per season against lefties is remarkable considering Bush batted nearly 3,500 times overall and his strict usage shows how valuable a fairly run-of-the-mill player can be when utilized optimally.

Bush finished his career with back-to-back poor campaigns in 1992 and 1993, but posted an adjusted OPS+ of 106 through his first 10 years with the Twins. He enjoyed hitting at home in the Metrodome, where he had a .796 OPS compared to .699 on the road, and also performed better in important spots, posting a .711 OPS with the bases empty while stepping it up to .798 with runners on base and .801 with runners in scoring position.

Bush played right field most often, but also spent substantial time at left field, first base, and designated hitter. He typically batted second, fifth, or sixth in the lineup, but logged over 100 plate appearances in each of the nine spots. It's difficult to identify the best season of Bush's career because he was so consistent in terms of both performance and playing time. His best overall production likely came in 1988, when he received a career-high 466 plate appearances.

His raw numbers are modest, as Bush batted .261/.365/.434 with 14 homers, 51 RBIs, and 51 runs, but MLB as a whole slugged under .400 in 1988 and Bush had a 121 OPS+ that ranked 28th in the league. He also ranked fifth with 10 intentional walks. His most effective season was without question 1991, when at 32 years old Bush hit .303/.401/.485 for a 140 OPS+ in 192 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter.

Bush led the league with 13 pinch-hits that season while batting .318/.423/.500 off the bench and hit .378/.489/.622 in "close and late" situations. That also turned out to be Bush's final productive season, as he hit .214 in 1992 and then retired after batting .156 over 32 games in 1993. After retiring as a player Bush spent five seasons as the head coach at his alma mater before stepping down in 2004 and has been the Cubs' assistant general manager since 2006.

His biggest game came on May 20, 1989 when he batted cleanup and went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers and team-record eight RBIs in a 19-3 win over Texas. He also came up big in Game 2 of the 1987 World Series, yanking a key two-run double off Danny Cox and later scoring on a head-first slide that evaded Tony Pena's tag. Another memorable moment was breaking up Jim Clancy's perfect game with a ninth-inning leadoff single on September 28, 1982.

Bush's career spanned a dozen seasons and they all came in Minnesota, as he re-signed with the Twins three times. He finished with a .251/.334/.413 line in 3,480 plate appearances that doesn't look particularly impressive on the surface, but in the context of the low-scoring era Bush played in they were solid. His career OPS+ was 102 on a scale where 100 is average and he's one of seven Twins to be on both the 1987 and 1991 championship teams.

TOP 25 ALL-TIME MINNESOTA TWINS RANKS
Games                1219     9th
Homers                 96    15th
Triples                26    15th
RBIs                  409    16th
Walks                 348    18th
Extra-Base Hits       276    19th
Plate Appearances    3480    20th
Total Bases          1257    20th
Times On Base        1160    20th
Runs Created          427    20th
Doubles               154    21st
Runs                  388    23rd
Isolated Power       .162    23rd
Hits                  763    24th
  • http://aarongleeman.com aarongleeman

    Just an FYI: I’m finally re-starting this series and plan to, you know, actually finish it this time (seriously). However, since it’s been so long since the last new entry I’m going to re-start things at #40 so people can get caught up before we get to the new ones later this offseason.

  • Arby

    Not again! You’re like Lucy with the damn football. You’ll start this and then give up again less than halfway through. Why do you do this? Is it some kind of sick game?

  • http://twitter.com/achester99 Alex

    #40 on my list is Juan Rincon. I know that as a reliever his limited innings minimize his advanced stat impact, but for 6 years he was the second most important member of the Twins bullpen (his collapse in 07 and the first half of 08 helps explain the team’s decade-worst run during that period).

    From 2003 to 2006 Rincon pitched 285 games (319 innings) with a 2.93 ERA (156 ERA+), 1.22 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9. And yeah, he might have been taking steroids, but uh, we’re not gonna talk about that.

    In 2004, 05, and 06 he was especially dominant, with 75+ games each season. But his xFIP did rise all three years (from 2.89 to 3.24 to 3.59) while his K/9 fell (11.6 to 9.8 to 7.9). The fact that he might have stopped taking steroids at that point might be a partial explanation, but this downward trend should help explain why he fell off the wagon in 07 and 08.

    Nevertheless, I have Rincon as the Twins’ 7th-best reliever ever, and I don’t think #40 overall is too bad for that.

    Or I could be totally honest and admit that I only have 37 Twins on my all-time rankings, so I just stuck Guerrier, Crain, and Rincon at 38, 39, and 40.

  • Chris J.

    Rather appropriate to re-start this series on Twins history on the anniversary of the Twins winning their first world title, 23 years ago today 10/25/87.

    (checks clock). Well, the date on the aricle is 23 years after, though it’s still a hour away from there in the Central Time Zone.

  • ML

    Alex,

    Are you insane or young?

  • Rick

    I call 18.

  • http://jasonwinter.blogspot.com Jason w

    Randy Bush: 119 career PA (3.4%) vs. LHP

    Jacque Jones: 1,095 career PA (20.2%) vs. LHP

    There’s Gardy vs. Kelly in a nutshell

  • McGivey

    I remember meeting Randy Bush at a Tires Plus grand opening. My Dad was more excited because it was just another signature added to his ’87 Wheaties box. Sadly the only people he’s ever to signed it are Bush, Juan Berenger and Tim Laudner.

  • ML

    Alex, here’s a quick 8 relievers who were, without question, better than Rincon: Al Worthington, Rick Aguilera, Doug Corbett, Juan Berenger, Joe Nathan, Eddie Guardado, Jeff Reardon, Tom Burgmeier.

    As far as good to mediocre, recent players, I’ll take Reyes’ 3 seasons over your guys.

  • http://twitter.com/achester99 Alex

    Nathan, Aggy, Worthington, Eddie, Guerrier, Crain. Doug Corbett only played 2 seasons (plus 10 games of a third) for the Twins, so he doesn’t qualify. Berenguer had 4 years of being a setup man with a high 3 ERA (3.70 overall, including 3.94 and 3.96 in the two years that he was on a winning Twins team) and only 9 saves. Reardon had 3 years in Minnesota and had ERAs of 4.48 and 4.07 in 2 of them. Burgmeier had two fantastic seasons with the Twins in 75 and 76, but was so abysmal in 74 and 77 that his total was 4 years in the pitcher-friendly 70s with a 3.77 ERA (101 ERA+).

    BTW I’m both young and insane. I’m also on vacation from work until January…

  • Kwill

    And perhaps the greatest feat of all – Bush is shares the record for career home runs (with John Mabry and Dave May) for a player born in the state of Delaware.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/bio/DE_born.shtml