Everything Comes Together For the First Time With Chad Kuhl’s New Approach

PITTSBURGH — The evolution of Chad Kuhl found a new step on Saturday at PNC Park in the Pirates’ 2-1 loss to the San Francisco.

On May 31, Kuhl introduced a curveball as a secondary pitch that could help hitters from sitting on his primary offering, a two-seam fastball. On June 15, Kuhl completely abandoned his old approach, leaning on his four-seam fastball instead of the two-seamer.

Since then, there have been some predictable growing pains. In Milwaukee on June 20, Kuhl gave up two runs in five innings but took 98 pitches to do so. In St. Louis on June 25, he struck out six in five innings but gave up four runs and again threw 99 pitches.

Saturday against the Giants, Kuhl seemed to have it all figured out for the first time. He had the two-seamer working, the four-seamer working and the sinker, with his curveball mixed in a good bit.

Kuhl had a no-hitter working into the sixth inning, he completed each of his innings with 15 pitches or less and had thrown just 75 when he was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth.

It’s just one start, but in the process Kuhl is going through — completely revamping his game at the major-league level — it represented an important step. Kuhl now has a blueprint of exactly the way things should look when he’s on his game. That’s not something he had before.

“It’s huge being able to throw the curveball and the four-seamer and get that feedback,” Kuhl said. “It feels really good to get the results finally.”

Elias Diaz has been catching Kuhl pretty regularly for the last season and a half. He’s never seen Kuhl quite like he was on Saturday.

“Amazing,” Diaz said. “(His fastball) was good down in the zone. Two-seam, four-seam, slider, everything was in play.”

With Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow and Drew Hutchison all pitching well in Indianapolis, it was a big moment for Kuhl to come through with that success. When asked if given all that, it was a big moment for Kuhl, manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged the situation.

“Nobody told him it was (a big start). I think every start is important. He knows what the situation is. He wants to pitch deeper into games. He put himself in a situation to do that today.”

SUCCESS AGAINST THE LEFT

Included in his successful start was a great night against left-handers, which have given Kuhl fits this year. The Giants rolled out five lefties and they went 1 for 11 against Kuhl with one walk and one strikeout.

“Just a nice mix of pitches with plus velocity and he moved the ball around extremely well,” Hurdle said. “No copycat sequencing.”

That’s Kuhl’s pitch chart against left-handed hitters and the pattern there is that there isn’t one. He threw all five of his pitches. He threw the two-seamer, change and the curveball away, the four-seamer and the slider to both sides of the plate.

When Kuhl came up, he hammered his two-seamer to the same part of the plate over and over and over again. Now, he’s become a pitcher with a much wider arsenal that is much less predictable.

OFFENSIVE OUTAGE

The Pirates walked 10 times and left 15 men on base. Twice, they left the bases loaded, with catcher Elias Diaz the culprit both times.

“We put them out there every inning, just about,” Hurdle said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about scoring runs. We worked to get out there, but we weren’t able to get them in today.”

LATE LOSS

In the 11th inning, Daniel Hudson’s wild pitch got past Diaz and let Denard Span score the winning run. Hudson was trying to be careful with Giants slugger Buster Posey and keep the ball down, but ended up being a little too careful.

“If I was going to get beat there, I was going to get beat by the best pitch. For a right hander this year, that’s my slider,” Hudson said. “I was just trying to make a quality pitch. If I walk him, I walk him. I just got a little bit too much bite on it and got a bad kick.”

NOTES

Andrew McCutchen went 1 for 4 with two walks and had his streak of reaching base run to 10 straight plate appearances before breaking it in the fifth inning. … Max Moroff went 0 for 5 and popped out a bunt attempt in the 10th inning. … Gregory Polanco went 3 for 4 with a double and a walk.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 2, 2017 4:40 pm

    Bullpen blows another game today

  • cervelli may be finished catching ala jaso
    pirates are thinking about moving him 3b?

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      July 2, 2017 4:45 pm

      Gosh, I hope not….he doesn’t hit well enough. But, with the Pirates you never know….logic doesn’t rule very often

  • Jeff Locke and Charlie M used to have games like this. If Kuhl can be consistently sharp, I’m buying Chad stock. Otherwise, I think he is a #5 or #6 SP at best and may be best suited for the bullpen.

    • Do you feel his stuff is that of a top of rotation pitcher but his Inability to actually pitch yet limits him to be a “#5 starter”. Because when I think of a number 5 starter I don’t think of a pitcher with a upper 90s fastball and 90+ slider, decent curve as just capped as a 5th starter.

      • Personally, I think of a 5th pitcher as being someone who can’t get past the 5th inning in 12 of 13 starts. Do it again, Chad – repeatedly.

    • No disagreement with him having to repeat this again and again….I think the point is that his revamp will allow him to have more of a chance against lefties which should only help. We’ll see how much. Wherever he ends up he’s on the path to get better. Doing what he’s doing on the fly at the highest level is gutsy.

  • Hurdle keeps talking about this gap from AAA to MLB that it’s the “biggest it’s ever been”. So what he’s excuse when all other teams around MLB call up players and they have instant success? Players like Max Moroff might not be so much a talent thing but it prob comes down to being mentally out of it. As you see Glasnow in his starts from MLB to AAA. His approach at MLB was way different than his minor league career. These kids get their shot at MLB and they all handle it all differently, they press, they get nervous, etc. Which leads to them getting out of their element of what truly helped them get to the MLB level. I believe AAA show what you actually have potential of doing, but a lot of people flame out because they can’t handle it mentally at MLB level.

    • Don’t we have a “mental” coach? Didn’t we hire some type of psychologist or someone of that ilk?

      • Obviously, if they do it’s not working. You heard it yesterday w/ Greg Brown and the coaches saying how Kuhl try’s to work so fast and he can’t slow down, etc. that’s all mental. Quite obvious the kid has excellent stuff. Same thing was said with Randy Johnson didn’t figure it out until 26 years old, but everyone forgets that. Bothers me when we say MLBers “suck” such as rookies, just bc they don’t come up and produce right away. Tough going from playing everyday too and getting one start a week.

  • Other than Hudson, the Pirates had good relief pitching. Got to give Kuhl credit for an awesome start. Maybe Moroff can work thru things at Indy. He certainly isn’t showing anything at the major league level. It’s a distinct possibility Gift could hit over .100 and provide better defense. Essentially CH is stifled with a 3 man bench ( plus a backup catcher) and adding Gift would reduce it to two.

  • Wait ’til next year!

    • so sayth daniel hudson

    • Hopefully next season will see a new GM who has a vision to improve the major league team in in the offseason and provide upgrades during the season.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        July 2, 2017 9:55 am

        Fire the manager and GM….how many games has Hudson cost this team but they keep putting him out there in high leverage situations?

        Getting 10 walks and scoring 1 run is a disgrace, against one of the worst teams in all of baseball.

        • …And that has what to do with Hurdle or Huntington? They’re grown men, they know how to play the game – they failed.

          And who do you want to pitch? The whole bullpen – save Rivero and mostly Nicasio – has been abysmal.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD
            July 2, 2017 4:42 pm

            NH signed Hudson….and CH keeps trotting him out there….DFA him or send him down. Give someone else a shot.

    • Wait, still a lot of work to do.
      1. Fire Clint Hurdle, and transfer Tom Prince and Dave Jauss to the front office in some capacity. Put the hitting coaches out as roving instructors.
      1a. Name Joey Cora as the Manager and allow him to identify his coaches for the remainder of 2017 and into the future.
      2. Send Moroff back to AAA and promote Kevin Newman from AA to the Pirates. A much better fielder at SS than both Moroff and Gosselin, he puts the ball in play, and his BB/K of 46/55 in 500 AB at AA is very impressive.
      3. When the time is right, promote Cole Tucker to AA, and make sure he is brought up when the rosters expand in Sep. When Alemais is ready, promote Valerio to Hi A.
      4. Add Moroff and Gosselin in a trade or DFA.

      • Bill Harvey
        July 2, 2017 7:10 am

        Let me work backwards.
        4. Who would want either of them, other than NH?
        3. Tucker is not setting HiA on fire with his bat, why would you want to see him in Pittsburgh this year?
        2. See #3.
        1 and 1a. It doesn’t matter who the manager is, the players aren’t performing.

        • If it does not matter, then why keep Hurdle? Fire the Players? That will not work.

          Tucker is doing good with the bat at Hi A, but even better with the glove with only 7 errors in 53 games, fielding at .969. He has stolen 28 bases and will not turn 21 until tomorrow.

          I disagree with blaming the players. The Manager is the guy that has to be a step or two ahead of the game, and be the guy inspiring the players. If that is not happening, and winning is important, then a change has to be made. This team has not had a winning month since August 2016. It’s time.

          • Bill Harvey
            July 2, 2017 11:40 am

            My response was not an endorsement of Hurdle, but a general statement that replacing him with Cora or anyone else likely would not have an effect. Fire him, keep him, it just doesn’t matter.

            Tucker is in High A, there is no reason, unless he is hitting .450, to rush him anywhere. You think he is playing well, I think he is doing meh. He is not, at this point in his life, a game changing player, even at High A, even for that level. He would look foolish against major league pitching.

            Lastly, and this is for everyone, how can you not blame the players for underperforming? Daniel Hudson has cost the Pirates at least 6 games, Watson 5 or 6, Nicasio 2 or 3, Marinez 2 or 3, McCutchen was horrible for 2 months, Polanco has been bad all year, Cole has been bad in half of his starts this year. If only those players had performed in their roles, the Pirates would be 5 games in front of the rest of the NL Central. There is nothing Hurdle could have done differently to alter the outcome of the games. The players were put into positions, and they failed to perform up to expectations. I don’t necessarily like Hurdle, but those are on the players , not on him.

      • Ummmm….no

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