Chad Kuhl changing it up leads to greater success

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl had quite possibly his most impressive outing as a big leaguer in Sunday’s 9-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Kuhl’s final line read: 7.0 IP, one hit, no runs, eight strikeouts and just two walks.

For Kuhl, who didn’t pitch good his last time out against Washington, it makes three out of his last four starts in which he went at least six innings, which has long been a problem for Kuhl.

But Sunday’s outing showed just how good Kuhl can be when he has things working?

Did he really have things working though?

As good as he was on Sunday, Kuhl can still be that much better if he can figure things out, which could be scary if he does.

Getting ahead of hitters has been a problem for Kuhl and if you read his line and didn’t watch the game, you would think that Kuhl was pounding the strike zone all day long.

That’s not entirely the case.

He threw 61 of 108 pitches for strikes, which is only 56.4 percent. Kuhl came into the game throwing just over 60 percent of his pitches for strikes, which is a low number.

Add onto that, he had trouble locating the fastball as he threw just five of 23 first-pitch strikes on the afternoon.

Judging by that alone, you wouldn’t have given much thought to Kuhl having another short outing, but it was just the opposite.

There’s also the fact that Kuhl didn’t locate great all afternoon.

He left quite a few pitches over the middle of the plate that the Milwaukee batters couldn’t do anything with.

It turns out that Kuhl turned in one of the odder stat lines in a gem that you will find.

Finally the Change Up

When Kuhl had trouble locating the fastball early, he went to the breaking stuff, which is something I’ve screamed for in the past.

Kuhl’s got “great stuff” and he showed it on Sunday.

He can throw four pitches well and doesn’t do it enough.

Give Francisco Cervelli credit for recognizing this and calling a great game as Kuhl attacked the Brewers lineup with changeups and curveballs, often making the Brewers’ hitters look silly.

Kuhl’s changeup usage was off the charts on Sunday at 16.82 percent compared to his other starts this season.

His curveball usage was also on par with his six-inning stints against the Tigers and Rockies most recently.

Chad Kuhl changing it up leads to greater success

Will Kuhl continue to change it up?

Coming into this start, Kuhl has been up and down.

You can see in the chart below, the success the league is having against Kuhl’s pitches this season and how he doesn’t mix things up enough.

Chad Kuhl changing it up leads to greater success

Because of the secondary pitches on Sunday Kuhl had 22 called strikes and eight swing and misses, which is something you would like to see more of from him.

His K/9 is only at 8.2 this season, even after fanning eight on Sunday.  That’s on par with where he was last season, but Kuhl has the stuff to be better in terms of strikeouts.

Here’s a quick look at how Kuhl performed on all of his pitches last season as well.

Chad Kuhl changing it up leads to greater success

The bottom line is that Kuhl has the tools to become a very good MLB pitcher.

Maybe not an ace, but a solid middle of the rotation guy.

People forget that he’s only had 52 career starts now. That’s not a lot for a young guy.

From the time he arrived in Pittsburgh to take on Clayton Kershaw in his debut, until now, Kuhl has evolved a great deal as a pitcher.

Now he just has to evolve some more and have the confidence to execute his off-speed stuff like he did on Sunday.

Consistency has always been Kuhl’s problem.

However if he can consistently pitch anything like he did on Sunday, Kuhl could turn out to be a good MLB pitcher.

With Nick Kingham’s emergence, Kuhl may have been pitching for his rotation spot on Sunday.

If that was the case his spot is surely safe.

We will find out soon if Kuhl can build off what certainly was the best outing of his career to date.

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