In any sport a rough start to a game can be difficult to overcome. Despite struggling in the start of games, Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Nick Kingham has been able to overcome this and pitch well for the team this season.
Right-handed pitcher Nick Kingham is now 10 starts into his Major League career. Start number 10 came in last night’s 6-2 Pittsburgh Pirates’ victory over the Cincinnati Reds in which Kingham allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
While Kingham was able to post a zero in the 1st inning last night it did not come easy. This continued a problem for Kingham that he undoubtedly would like to address. What is the problem? Well, Kingham has a problem with the 1st inning.
In his 10 starts this season Kingham has allowed 49 hits, 11 home runs, he has walked 14 batters, and has been charged with 23 earned runs in 57 innings pitched. Overall, this comes out to a 4.11 ERA, 7.7 H/9 allowed, and a strong 5.8% walk rate.
And his ERA is greatly inflated by a disastrous start against the Dodgers on July 2nd. Outside of this start, Kingham owns a 3.00 ERA this season.
Most of the damage that has been done to the rookie Kingham has come in the 1st inning. After issuing a pair of walks in the bottom of the 1st inning on Saturday night, six of the 14 walks issued by Kingham this season have come in the game’s opening frame. Eight of the 23 earned runs he’s allowed and 11 of 49 hits have been in the 1st inning.
42.8% of the walks issued by Kingham, 34.7% of earned runs allowed, and 22.4% of hits allowed have come in the 1st inning of starts this season. Opposing batters are slugging .487 against Kingham with a .400 on-base percentage in the 1st inning this season. This is the third highest slugging percentage of any inning, with one of the higher innings being the 7th inning which he has only pitched into three times this season, and the highest OBP.
On top of 1st inning struggles risking putting your team in an early hole, it can also take a toll on the starting pitcher. If a pitcher’s pitch count gets high due to a long 1st inning, it can shave an inning or two off of their start. This in turn taxes the bullpen and lessens a team’s chances of victory.
The fact Kingham has struggled to such an extent in the 1st inning of starts this season makes the fact he has pitched so well while averaging nearly six innings per start impressive. Now it is up to Kingham and pitching coach Ray Searage to help him fix his 1st inning problem.
Nick Kingham is putting together a strong rookie season for the Pirates. However, he has struggled with the 1st inning of games. The next step in his develop as a MLB starting pitcher is to fix his 1st inning problem.