In order to succeed in baseball, confidence is key. Whether you go through a rough stretch or a hot streak, belief in yourself when on the mound is huge. Right-handed prospect Nick Kingham said that confidence is the result of what has allowed him to post just a 1.50 ERA over his last seven starts at Low-A West Virginia.
“It’s not easy,” Pitching Coach Willie Glen said of having confidence. “You go out there, and you don’t have success, you take a beating. And if it’s repeated non success, then you really take a beating. So what we try to do is try and find the positives out of it and go off of those. That’s kind of how we try and use it to climb that ladder back to where you want to get.”
During an impressive 2011 season at State College last season, Kingham posted a 2.15 ERA over 15 starts in his first year at Short-Season A-Ball after being drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round in 2010. That season earned him a promotion to Low-A West Virginia to start 2012. The right-hander got off to a slow start in April, but found success in May posting a 2.84 ERA over five starts.
But like many young pitchers, Kingham has struggled with consistency. Kingham followed up his solid May with two rough months in June and July, before putting together his current hot streak. The righty has put in a lot of hard work to get back on track, and is reaping the rewards.
“Mainly just mental,” Kingham said. “Just going back to throwing the ball like I did last year a little bit. Mostly it’s just mental though. Just really not trying to care. To go in and just throw the ball and pitch, really try and not be perfect. Just don’t try to do that and go out and just let it happen.”
“I feel like my secondary pitches are definitely improving since last year. Last year we just mainly stuck to fastballs. I didn’t really throw the changeup or curveball. This year I’m throwing a lot more curveballs and changeups. They’ve definitely improved.”
Last season with State College, Kingham used his curve only two or three times an outing, and because of the focus of establishing fastball command, felt it got a little rusty. Kingham began using the breaking pitch a lot more with the Power, and feels it’s improving.
“I didn’t throw it much last year,” Kingham said. “That was the only thing, I felt like it got rusty since I didn’t use it. I kind of almost lost it. But this year, we’ve thrown it a bunch and it’s definitely coming around.”
Another step forward this season for Kingham has kept his velocity more consistent. The right-hander has improved from 90-93 last year, to touching 95 MPH during spring training, and has been able to carry that on to Low-A.
“I’m trying to throw it as hard as I can,” Kingham said. “It’s just late in the season, sometimes you kind of fatigue a little. But I feel like I’m been pretty consistent throughout the rest of the season from beginning to end. I’m just trying to be consistent with my delivery and everything. The velocity will come.”
Kingham, a 20-year-old top prospect in the Pirates organization, has put together an impressive recent streak since July 17. He’s allowed just six earned runs over his last 36.1 innings. During that span, he’s walked eight while striking out 29. Kingham will look to finish out his first full season strong, in which he’s posted a 4.62 ERA over 115.0 innings. He’s put together a 3.99 ERA in the second-half.
“Mostly just not really caring,” Kingham said of what led to his recent success.”I know it sounds bad, but it’s just the mentality that I have out there. I just lay it out on the table. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t dwell on the past. You can’t change it. Just try and correct it the future.”
“That’s the biggest thing with him — the belief in his ability right now,” Glen said. “It wasn’t there. He got hit a little bit early in the season. It kind of set him back. It took him a while, but he’s kind of reached a point to where he was last year when he was in State College. I think we’re starting to see the results of what that belief in himself is, and how that translates out on the field for him.”