Morning Report: Tough Test For Kuhl, Thoughts on Glasnow’s Last Start

Earlier this week, Chad Kuhl was named our Pitcher of the Year. He is going to start tonight for Indianapolis in a must-win game and that’s a huge task for him considering the situation.

Kuhl pitched this entire season for Altoona and put up strong numbers after a slow start. He wasn’t really pitching bad early, it was just that everyone else for the Curve was pitching better. Despite that, he ended up with some of the best numbers in the system, while also pitching the fourth most innings. He seems like an excellent candidate to make the start tonight, but there are a few issues which make this start out of the ordinary.

The first issue would be that this is his AAA debut and he’s making it in a huge spot. Most players make their debut at a new level in a less stressful manner.  You’re not thrown into a game that is a must win contest, which will end your new team’s season if you lose.

The second thing in that he is making this start nine days after his last start and that last start was actually seven days after his previous start. The third issue ties in with the second and it’s that he lasted 1.2 innings in his only playoff start with Altoona, giving up four runs on six hits.

On one hand, you have a pitcher who put up a terrific season. On the other hard, we are talking about someone at a brand new level, who has only pitched 1.2 innings the last two weeks and that outing was one of his worst games of the season. There’s also the crowd, which will likely be the largest crowd he has pitched in front of as a pro.

It basically puts him in a low-expectation situation, but combines it with a high pressure situation, unlike one he’s ever been in before during his pro career. He did pitch in the playoffs for Altoona, but his start was the first game of the series, so even if he lost, it wasn’t over. Despite how bad he did, that was the only game the Curve won in the series, coming back from a seven-run deficit. If he has a bad game, you could look at multiple reasons why it shouldn’t be a surprise. It also means that he could impress by doing very little, but that could also mean the end of the season for Indianapolis.

Yesterday’s Morning Report was about Tyler Glasnow and pitching in the playoffs. I watched the game and saw all but a few of his pitches in the third inning when the feed froze for one batter. I’ve basically watched at least 90% of his pitches since he was promoted to AAA and this last start was different from the others in a couple way. The first is that they really let him go well after he should have been removed, yet he did a decent job of pitching through it. He was gassed at the end, and you could see it in his fastball, which was hitting 90-92 mph often at the end. Earlier in the game he threw an 89 mph change-up, so that tells you the difference he saw from the start.

Glasnow could not locate his curve early, throwing seven in a row(non-consecutive pitches) for balls at one point. That left the Columbus hitters to sit fastball and they hammered him. He had some long outs and in a slightly smaller ballpark, we are talking about him giving up five homers. Indianapolis is a big field, so that’s not out of the question that somewhere else would have produced different results. He also gave up a ball that was just foul and hit so far, that no one in that general area even made a move to chase it. It was crushed, plain and simple. Glasnow still set a career-high with three homers allowed. In fact, he only allowed three homers during the regular season.

The good from this outing could be summed up fairly quickly. The first batter he faced gave a lot of hope that it would be a good night. He pumped in strikes, including a strikeout on a 97 mph pitch with good downward plane. Cut to his last inning and he threw an 86 mph change-up with nice movement, followed by a 93 mph fastball on the inside corner, ending with a 77 mph curve that fell off the table. That one sequence of three pitches was masterful, and he did it while he was around 100 pitches for the game.

The rest of the game between those two at-bats didn’t have much to be happy about. The exception was his velocity early on, which was consistently 94-95. Even after the great three-pitch at-bat, he gave up a hard hit single up the middle and walked the next batter, with two 90 mph fastballs mixed in among the five pitches. Basically, if all you only saw the two great at-bats mentioned above, you’d call for him to be up now(some people still call for him to be up regardless of all the first-hand accounts we have provided).

If you saw the rest of the game from him, you would come away saying that you hope he is ready by June 10th next year, but we might not see him until later in the season. It’s going to be interesting to follow his progress in 2016, because he is far from a polished pitcher at this point. On Thursday night we saw what happens when he only has one pitch working, and that was against AAA hitters.

One fun fact thrown in for today, which I took the time to look up yesterday. The Pirates have 21 or more starts from five different pitchers this year. They had 21 or more from five different pitchers last year. The last time that happened in back-to-back seasons in Pittsburgh? The 1924-25 clubs, and I believe something good happened during that second season back then.

The Morning Report and Prospect Watch will both continue until the day the last playoff game is played(which means this could be the last one). You can find last night’s Prospect Watch here.

Playoff Schedule

Indianapolis vs Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Best-of-five series. Indianapolis won the series 3-0

9/9: Indianapolis 7, Scranton/WB 3

9/10: Indianapolis 6, Scranton/WB 1

9/11: Indianapolis 4, Scranton/WB 2

Indianapolis vs Columbus. Best-of-five series. International League finals. Indianapolis trails series 2-1

9/15: Columbus 6, Indianapolis 5

9/16: Columbus 5, Indianapolis 4

9/17: Indianapolis 6 Columbus 5

9/18: @Indianapolis 7:15

9/19: @Indianapolis 7:05 if necessary

Altoona vs Bowie. Best-of-five series. Altoona lost the series 3-1.

9/9: Altoona 8, Bowie 7

9/10: Bowie 7, Altoona 0

9/11: Bowie 11, Altoona 3

9/12: Bowie 3, Altoona 0

West Virginia Power vs Hickory. Best-of-three series. The Power lost the series 2-1.

9/9: West Virginia 4, Hickory 2

9/11: Hickory 6, West Virginia 3

9/12: Hickory 1, West Virginia 0

Morgantown vs Williamsport. Best-of-three series. Morgantown won the series 2-1

9/9: @Morgantown 7:05 postponed until 9/10

9/10: Morgantown 2, Williamsport 1

9/11: Williamsport 3, Morgantown 1

9/12: @Williamsport 12:00 postponed until 9/13

9/13: Morgantown 4, Williamsport 0

Morgantown vs Staten Island. Best-of-three series. NYPL Finals. Morgantown wins 2-0

9/14: Morgantown 4, Staten Island 3

9/15: Morgantown 3, Staten Island 1

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by five games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a two game lead for the top wild card spot.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 9-6 to the Cubs on Thursday afternoon. They now travel to Los Angeles to play three games against the Dodgers, starting tonight with Jeff Locke on the mound to face Zack Greinke. Locke has not faced the Dodgers this year. He gave up one earned run over 6.1 innings in his last start. Greinke has a 1.61 ERA in 200.2 innings this season. He threw eight shutout innings in his last start.

MLB: Pittsburgh (87-59) @ Dodgers (84-61) 10:10 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.43 ERA, 56:120 BB/SO, 156.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (83-61) vs Columbus (83-61) 7:15 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (NR)

AA: Altoona (74-68)

High-A: Bradenton (74-64)

Low-A: West Virginia (87-52)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (42-34)  NYPL Champs

Rookie: Bristol (29-36)

GCL: Pirates (28-31) (season recap)

DSL: Pirates (30-42) (season recap)


Here we have a video of highlights from the first round of the playoffs for Indianapolis.

Recent Transactions

9/15: Radhames Liz designated for assignment. Vance Worley added to Pirates.

9/15: Chad Kuhl promoted to Indianapolis. Matt Benedict assigned to Altoona. Brad Lincoln activated from DL.

9/10: A.J. Burnett activated from disabled list.

9/9: Zack Dodson promoted to Indianapolis.

9/9: Felipe Gonzalez and Hunter Morris promoted to Altoona. Robert Stock assigned to GCL Pirates.

9/7: Travis Ishikawa activated from disabled list.

9/5: Travis Ishikawa assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

This Date in Pirates History

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, starting with the most recent first. Donald Veal was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Pirates in 2008, pitching 19 times for the 2009 Pirates. He had a 7.16 ERA in 16.1 innings, with 20 walks and 16 strikeouts. He has pitched parts of four seasons since then, including five games for the 2015 Braves.

Jody Gerut played four games for the 2005 Pirates after they acquired him at the trade deadline from the Indians in exchange for Matt Lawton. He hit .222 and drove in two runs.

Roger Mason, relief pitcher for the 1991-92 NL East champs. Had a 3.82 ERA in 117.2 innings over 89 appearances.

Ken Brett, starter for the 1974-75 NL East champs. Brett had a 3.30 ERA and won 13 games for the 1974 team. The next year, he had a 3.36 ERA over 118 innings. In the playoffs, he pitched 2.1 innings in relief each year. He is the brother of Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. They were teammates on the Royals in 1980-81.

Harvey Haddix, Pirates pitcher from 1959-63. He won 45 games for the Pirates and 136 games during his career, though he is best known for a game he didn’t win. Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against the Braves on May 26, 1959, but he lost the game in the 13th inning. The boxscore can be found here.

Heinie Groh, third baseman for the 1927 Pirates. Signed mid-season, he played the last 14 games of his 16-year career with the Pirates.  Superb fielding third baseman, could also hit, batting .292 in his career. Twice led league in OBP, twice in doubles, once in runs and once in hits.

  • Thank you for the ray of hope with the mention of the 1925 team. Really needed that today, of all days. Come on, Buccos!

  • Glass half full lacks command and as such he is a suspect at this point and not a prospect. I think Montana has a better chance to being a success then he does and Montana can not break a pane of glass with his fast ball.

    • Actually DuRapau has gone from 86-88mph last year, to 90-93 this year, so he has become a much better prospect just by adding 4-5 mph without losing any command

  • John, how is the movement on Glasnows fastball? And does he throw the 2 seamer at the ratio the Pirates like to see? Or is he still throwing mostly 4 seam?

    Never seen the kid pitch, but from what I’m gathering here looks like he’s trying to make the transition from blowing it by people, mixing in the breaking ball– to changing speeds and location. Aka, learning to pitch and use your defense.

    • He tends to overthrow the ball, so you will see a lot of fastballs in the 93-95 mph range that are between the belt and letters. When he does it right though, you see a fastball thrown on a downward plane coming from a 6’8″ pitcher that starts from above the batters head and ends at the knees. When he does that, he is devastating.

      As you guessed, since he doesn’t have great command yet, he relies on blowing the fastball by players. He has a long stride, so it’s like he’s right on top of hitters and if they chase that fastball up in the zone, they aren’t going to catch up to it. The problems creep up when he faces patient hitters, who make him throw strikes, and if his curve isn’t working(like early last night) then it’s basically just batters sitting fastball and they crushed them yesterday.

      At the lower levels, those fastballs up out of the zone get chased a lot more, so he is going to need that downward plane working. He also can’t get by on one pitch anymore, which you could do in A-ball. If his curve wasn’t working then, it didn’t matter as much, partly because batters would chase it while guessing fastball. No one was chasing last night until around the 5th-6th inning, then he had both pitches working and his change-up even works then because it adds a middle velocity to those two pitches. He’s 93-95 FB, 85-88CH, 77-78CV, so if he can ever rely on all three, you’re talking an ace in the majors. I also think he will fill out more and hold his velocity better

  • I’m fairly certain with the way he pitched for the most part in A A that he will be fine. Probably amped up to be in AAA knocking on the door and trying to hard to make a good impression being the top prospect and all…I do believe that Jamison will be up first though as reports from this year show he was really controlling all his pitches. I know that he missed a lot of time but he just seems closer command wise and really you are talking about another guy who throws 95+, just slightly lower than Cole and Glasnow.

    • I’m starting to think that if for some reason if Taillon and Glasnow were to spend the whole year and AAA next year Taillon will end up ranked higher than Glasnow. With that said, the way it looks right now Taillon will be up in June and Glasnow in September if needed.

  • The odds are always relatively long for hard throwing, spotty command pitching prospects. Glasnow’s up and down nature reminds me of the commentary that surrounds NFL teams, which are always two wins from being Super Bowl contenders, two losses from cleaning out the coaching staff.

    • Agree…Glasnow is starting to look like he’s going to hit his floor…that of a late inning reliever.

      • You pretty much illustrated what I was talking about, go back to September 6th and he made arguably his best start of the season, prior to 1st of September there was call up discussion.

        • It really is amazing how he can just be all over the place with his performance. I gave three scenarios for his start last night and then he goes out and adds a fourth to the mix. I’ve seen him give up his share of hits in a game, but nothing like last night with so many hit like that. Usually there are some bloops and infield hits. They were using him for batting practice and only the big stadium, a great catch by Broxton and a ball just hit foul, saved him from being knocked out earlier and his line looking a lot worse

      • The Pirates should take Locke, Morton, Taillon and Glasnow to some remote island. Give them a machete and some waterproof matches and tell them they will be picked up in 21 days. Bucco version of Naked and Afraid. Maybe we’ll end up with four mentally tougher starters.

      • I think the jury is still out on him. I wouldn’t put him in that category quite yet. He is still quite young.