Pittsburgh Pirates’ right-hander Nick Kingham was nothing short of magnificent in his big league debut yesterday. In his victory against the St. Louis Cardinals, the 26-year-old went seven shutout innings, striking out nine. He retired the first 20 batters he faced.
Just how good was Kingham?
Simply put, he was historic for a pitcher making his debut.
How’d he do it?
Kingham did an excellent job of keeping hitters off balanced. Of his 98 pitches, 55 were fastballs of both the four and two-seam variety. He coupled the heat with 32 sliders, seven curveballs, and four changeups. Along with mixing his pitches, Kingham did a superb job of pounding the strike zone. Of his 98 pitches, 72 were strikes.
Kingham doesn’t have an overpowering fastball. Yesterday it sat around 92-94 mph. By today’s standards, his velocity is average. Location is key.
Kingham was pumping fastballs for strikes. Sure, a lot of these pitches caught the middle of the zone but it didn’t matter. Timing was a huge problem for Cardinal hitters. Why?
It was thrown for a strike 28 of 32 times. His slider accounted for 12 of his 16 total whiffs on the day. It was his bread and butter pitch and was working to perfection. Well, almost. Here’s a look.
Although a lot of these pitches are not in the strike zone, Kingham was able to get hitters to bite. The pitch fell right off of the table. His release point was also key.
It was consistent with all of his pitches. Cardinal hitters thought they were getting juicy fastballs and swung right over the breaking slider. It truly was fun to watch and acted as a recipe for success. Kingham can make a career out of this approach. Limit fastballs. Keep hitters honest with the breaking ball. Hopefully other Pirate starters took notes.
What does this start mean for Kingham?
After Enny Romero was put on the DL, a roster spot opened. Right now, Kingham is still on the team. He made the trip to Washington. As it stands now, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Ivan Nova, and Trevor Williams will start the next four games. That leaves Friday’s slot open. Either Kingham or Steven Brault will start that game.
Brault has struggled this year. Right now, he is 2-1 with a 4.97 ERA. Those numbers do him justice. In reality, Brault has struck out 14.5 percent of batters this year and walked 12.1 percent. His xFIP is 5.57. He has three more strikeouts than he does walks (18 to 15) in 29 innings pitched.
In my humble opinion, Kingham should get another start Friday night at the Milwaukee Brewers. Slide Brault into Tyler Glasnow’s current role of long man reliever. Get Glasnow in some higher leverage situations.
Will the Pirates take this approach? It’s hard to tell. Usually, the Pirates are not an organization to make rash, reactionary decisions. I mean, Kingham had one great start.
In this case though, a perfect storm is in the brew for Kingham. He killed it yesterday. Nobody foresaw such an outstanding start from him. Contrarily, Brault has struggled. He’s fought subpar command and hasn’t showed the stuff to finish batters. He is merely a stopgap to Joe Musgrove. Let Kingham take that role for now.
If Kingham can show dominance in the near future, the Pirates would have a much harder decision on the horizon.