PITTSBURGH — Sometimes, less is more. That’s the big takeaway for Chad Kuhl over the last two starts, as he followed his worst performance of the season with a five-inning one-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies in what became a 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

His last time out against the Washington Nationals, Kuhl reached back for 99.5 mph on one of his two-seam fastballs. It was an impressive moment. The rest of the start was not. Kuhl gave up six runs on ten hits in four innings against the Nationals.

In between starts, Kuhl did some soul searching, watched a lot of video, and found a version of himself that he thought would work a lot better. It turns out he was right. Kuhl kept the Phillies off-balance early with his hard-sinking two-seamer and retired the first eight hitters of the game. He didn’t give up a hit until there was one out in the fifth inning and also effectively mixed in his changeup and his slider.

The difference? Well Kuhl noticed something mechanically that he needed to get cleaned up first and foremost.

“Just saying over my back side and angling the baseball,” Kuhl said “It was much better than my last three games. It’s something that I worked my last couple times out in the bullpen. It kinda paid off today.”

It was a rewarding process for Kuhl to find something he thought he could improve upon on video and take that change into the game with success.

“It feels great to see it show up in the game and all the ground balls I got today,” Kuhl said. “It feels like I’m on track.”

But it wasn’t all mechanical adjustments. Kuhl said he had to get back to trusting the stuff that got him to the majors and not try to throw 100 mph past people.

“They guy that threw 99 against the Nationals, that’s not who I am,” Kuhl said. “The angle was getting away from me. That’s something that I really wanted to work on.”

Kuhl threw 34 two-seamers in his outing, with an average velocity of 95.4 mph. He threw 64 of them for strikes and they averaged a horizontal break of -8.38 inches and a vertical break of 7 inches. Last time out, his average velocity was actually lower — 94.4 mph — but Kuhl eliminated the overthrown pitches. His max velocity on Sunday was 96.9. Last outing, he had six pitches thrown harder than that. But there were three balls and three strikes and one of the strikes went for a hit.

Eliminating those overthrown two-seamers and focusing on consistently delivering the ball kept Kuhl around the strike zone — 57 of his 89 pitches were strikes — and also led to more success with his secondary pitches.

“It makes everything better when you have your fastball,” Kuhl said. “If you have your fastball, that’s something that they’re going to be hunting and then you have that slider and that changeup that you can do to off that.”

RAIN OR SHINE

The game was played in a steady rain. Kuhl said he doesn’t mind the conditions. If anything, he enjoys them a bit.

“I like the cold, too,” he said. “Whatever makes it worse for the hitter, I’m good with.”

While the conditions undoubtedly made it harder on the hitters of both sides — hence the 1-0 final score — it also made for tricky fielding. Felipe Rivero threw away a routine ground ball because it slipped out of his hand. Even Gift Ngoepe, who is probably the best defender on the team, struggled at times.

“You have to kind of attack the ball as best as you can, work through it and make a good throw to first base” he said.

Ngoepe also ran down two pop-ups way down the third-base line, showing off his range.

“My range allows me to do a lot of things,” Ngoepe said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense. I’ve really worked hard on it and it’s what got me to the big leagues.”

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Let me be Josh Bell for a minute. The team wants me to play first base for them. Shit, I am an outfielder but will give it my best effort, anything for the team and too win. So I start taking grounders at first, relays, picks and other necessary things to become comfortable and confident. Now I play and do my best but I am not great but greatly improved. So now I am the regular first baseman but what does that ass hurdle do to me every game, take me out for defense In the late innings and it ruins my confidence. Doesn’t this guy understand that I can only improve by playing more and taking me out is killing my ability to perform. I wish the GM would talk to him because he is killing me.

    • Listen Josh, Coach Clint is a one-trick pony – we had to have Sean Rodriguez as the late inning 1B guy last year and now the guy he replaced most of the time is now our “bestest” defensive 1B. Coach Clint means well, but just cannot get out of his own way sometimes.

      You have to be patient and keep playing your game. After watching the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, and others aggressively promote and depend on their young prospects, the Pirates hired somebody they felt could handle that better than Coach Clint, and placed him at AA last year. This year he is Coaching 3B for the Pirates, waiting quietly and patiently for the inevitable “other shoe” to drop on Coach Clint. Good talk Josh.

    • On the other hand, it might not be too bad for his development at the position to shield him from high pressure situations at least for a little while. Everything gets amplified in the late innings, and it becomes harder to simply focus on improving as a player. I’m sure he’ll start getting his chances in the late innings, gradually, throughout the season. He’s much improved, but there’s still work to do.

      • I went to the game last Wed and watched Josh Bell play his butt off at 1B, making 3 or 4 difficult plays in the first 6 innings. Then he broke a 0-0 tie with a 3 run HR in the bottom of the 6th, and he was immediately pulled for Jaso. IMO, a BS move that I placed in the category of micro-management, overkill, & Clint being Clint.

        This is a Manager who takes 4 or 5 starters out for a home game the team has to win, but plays like there is no tomorrow with 1 guy on defense? Bell is fielding at a .997 clip, 10th of 25 qualified MLB 1B. Not a finished product yet; I expect he will get better on defense as he matures, which he needs to do on the field.

  2. I’m glad Doc Emrick is a Bucs fan and occasionally dropped updates from the Bucs game during that glorious Pens game yesterday.

  3. I’m going to go ahead and say I was right. The velocity itself wasn’t the problem. It was mechanics and making sure he was throwing the ball on the correct plane and over the correct spin axis. If that means he doesn’t throw 100 mph, that’s what it means, but more consistent velocity and more consistent action is borne out in that mechanical adjustment, not strictly on how hard he’s throwing. Mechanics do, after all, sometimes break down when you overthrow.

    I should be a coach.

    • You should be. Kuhl definitely has some pitches to work with, but his 4 seam is currently averaging 1.4 mph faster, and the 2 seam 1.6 mph faster. Don’t know what he did over the off-season, but bumping the average by those numbers is unusual. And, his GB % has dropped to 40 from 44+ last year. I would like to see him work on developing that change-up to be a possible out pitch.

      When Taillon went down, I thought we would have big problems, but Cole, Nova, Kuhl, and Glasnow have stepped it up. The Pirates have hung in as a team through their pitching which is now 12th of 30 with a 4.05 ERA, and their Fielding which is now 8th of 30 with a .981 fielding percentage. Hitting continues to be a problem and the Pirates are 29th of 30 with a .226 team batting average. Pitching and defense wins!

  4. I saw that clickbait thing on Facebook “Astros interested in Cole.” Yeah I am interested in a three way with Jessica Alba and Christina Hendricks but a lot of things would have to happen to make that occur as well.

    • There is a lot of smoke out there. 99.99% of this stuff never happens. A much more surprisning headline would have been has absolutely no interest in trading for Garrett Cole.

      That being said, the Astros have some seriously good prospects. I’d be happy with Kyle Tucker (OF), Franklin Perez (19 YO SP), and Garrett Stubbs (C – think Reese McGuire who can drive the ball).

  5. For what its worth, Houston is hot for Cole and must have gotten the pirates attention. They have reassign some scouts to all of the Astros farm teams and even extended spring training. My cousin in law works for a major league team and his job is to gather intel and he has seen a lot early action in the scouting world. But some times he can blow smoke , so take it for what is worth.

    • It makes sense for the Bucs to do due diligence on Astros prospects. Whether it leads to a Cole deal is a whole other matter.

      Maybe we’re gonna get Electric Charlie back in the deal? 🙂

        • We have seen enough of CM. Don’t care what he ever does elsewhere. He was erratic and really killed them in the late season game v Cards. Good luck to him he was never going to be more than an inconsistent, marginal pitcher susceptible to getting hammered. Likewise Locke.

      • he was throwing 100mph the other night and the first 7 outs were all strikeouts!!!! #allthesteriods

      • I don’t believe we deal Cole in 2017 with control through 2019. He will be the cornerstone next year. Too many things gone wrong this year but too much talent to throw away your best players when they are controllable. Cole gets traded after 2018 season.

        • You are most likely correct, but it certainly does not hurt for Neal H. to at least field inquiries and see what the market will bear.

    • I will start by saying that I in no way believe Cole will, or even should be traded.

      That being said, I am not impressed with anyone in Houston’s system. I would only use them an a leverage move to get other teams to increase their offer.

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