Chad Kuhl was impressive in the month of July, putting up an 0.61 ERA in 29.2 innings over five starts, which was enough for him to be named our Pitcher of the Month for July. On the season, Kuhl ranks fifth in the Eastern League in ERA out of all pitchers with 100+ innings, posting a 2.80 ERA in 122.1 innings this year. He has also shown the ability to stay healthy and pitch often, pitching the fourth most innings in the league.
The month of July was a complete turnaround from Kuhl’s month of June. In six starts and 35 innings in June, Kuhl had a 4.11 ERA.
“I’ve been feeling good with all of the minor changes that we’ve been making lately,” Kuhl said after a six-inning outing on July 27th where he didn’t allow a run. “All of the progressions that we’ve been trying to make with my delivery and with my pitches have been coming along nicely for me. It’s been a good stretch.”
So what are these minor changes that he is talking about? Easily said, Kuhl has been working on matching his delivery between the windup and stretch.
“It’s a lot of these minor mechanical things that allow me to be more consistent,” Kuhl said. “You can work on all of your secondary stuff, but if you’re not consistent, it throws everything out of whack. We’re working just a little bit with the timing and hands. We’re just trying to match up my windup and stretch.”
Kuhl has been working with Pitching Coach Justin Meccage to match his windup and stretch so that they compliment each other. He felt like he wasn’t able to settle into either delivery consistently throughout the game, so now they want to be able to deliver from both the stretch and windup without having to over think either one.
“They were just different before,” said Kuhl. “Now, we’re just trying to mesh them so when you are comfortable with one, you are comfortable with the other, too.”
The changes made by Kuhl have made a tremendous difference on the mound. The most dramatic change that I have seen from him over the past month is the ability to limit damage with one big hit. In July, Kuhl only allowed four extra base hits, and they were all doubles. Batters had a slugging percentage of .288 against him, which was actually lower than his OBP-Against. Compared to June, batters had a .450 slugging percentage against him, allowing 13 extra base hits with five of those home runs.
A big part of control extra base hits is keep the ball on the ground, and Kuhl has done that very well over the past month. Through the first three months of the season, he had a fairly even groundball-to-flyball ratio of 1.02. In July, Kuhl induced 53 groundballs compared to 34 flyballs for a ratio of 1.56.
Kuhl is also starting to see more strikeouts recently. He has been throwing more strikes and keeping his breaking pitches in the zone of late – a development that he has been striving to reach this season. His slider and changeup have dramatically improved from the beginning of the year.
“It’s been a huge pitch for me,” Kuhl said of his slider. “It was a big thing coming into this year. I had a ton of ground balls last year, but the strikeouts weren’t really there. That’s my strikeout pitch. It’s come a long way.”
Meccage and Manager Tom Prince have both expressed similar thoughts about Kuhl’s slider.
“It was sharp and late,” Meccage said. “He was able to throw it early in the count for strikes, as well as late.”
The changeup has come a long way for Kuhl, too.
“All three pitches have come a long ways,” Meccage said. “He’s always shown times of having a slider. He’s always shown times of having a changeup. Now, he’s putting together the whole package. It also think his composure is phenomenal now.”
“Today, his slider was working really well off of the fastball,” Prince said after his July 27th start. “That was where he got a lot of his strikeouts, and today he mixed in a great changeup. Throwing the changeup well was one of the goals, and he accomplished it well with Stallings.”
Early in the season, Kuhl struggled throwing the slider against right-handed batters. Now, he is consistently throwing it with confidence to batters from both sides of the plate.
Of course, it all goes back to fastball control, and Kuhl has kept the fastball down in the zone lately. The secondary pitches have all worked extremely well off of the fastball.
Justin Meccage wrapped things up about as best as I could think. “He’s getting comfortable, but,” he hesitated, “I think he’s honestly just pretty good.”