Is Chad Kuhl’s Best Long Term Home In The Bullpen?

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Right-handed pitcher Chad Kuhl has made six Major League starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In these six starts, the Pirates are 6-0. However, long term Chad Kuhl might be best suited for the bullpen.

Through six career Major League starts, Chad Kuhl has been impressive. Kuhl has pitched at least six innings in four of his six starts, and at least five in five of the sex. Most importantly, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 6-0 when Kuhl starts this season.

Despite the strong start to his Major League career, Chad Kuhl might not be in the spot he is best suited in. Why is that you ask? Well, because, in my opinion, Kuhl’s best long term home in the Major Leagues is in the bullpen.

Through his first six career starts Chad Kuhl has pitched 31 1/3 innings. In those 31 1/3 innings pitched he is averaging 6.32 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9, and he has a 1.24 WHIP. All of this has resulted in Kuhl posting a 3.73 ERA, 3.94 FIP, and a 4.83 xFIP.

All of these numbers are very respectable from Kuhl. In fact, his ERA, FIP, walk rate, home run rate, and WHIP are all above league average. However, his 4.83 xFIP is concerning. His xFIP being so high is a sign that what he is doing may not be sustainable.

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There are two things that concern me about Chad Kuhl moving forward. First off, his ground ball rate is just 39.4 percent. In the Minor Leagues Kuhl was a ground ball machine, but this has not carried over to the Major Leagues.

Secondly, Chad Kuhl has been awful against left-handed pitching. Left-handed hitters are slashing .300/.377/.500/.877 off of Kuhl this season. Kuhl has also allowed a .374 wOBA and a 35.6 percent hard contact rate against left-handed pitching. Kuhl’s ground ball rate against left-handed hitters is just 35.1 percent, while it jumps to 45.9 percent against right-handed hitters.

If Chad Kuhl does not improve against left-handed hitters, he will struggle to continue to be a successful Major League starting pitcher. One of the biggest reasons Juan Nicasio struggled as a starting pitcher was due to struggles against left-handed pitching. And ever since moving to the bullpen, Nicasio has been a completely different pitcher. In my opinion, Chad Kuhl currently faces that same dilemma.

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In no world am I say that Chad Kuhl should be removed from the rotation or anything like that. Chad Kuhl is currently one of the Pirates’ five best starting pitchers, and therefore should be in the rotation. He should remain in the rotation until he gives the Pirates reason to remove him. But what I am saying is that I believe he will, eventually, give them said reason.

Long term, I believe Chad Kuhl’s ceiling as a starting pitcher is a decent back of the rotation arm. However, as a reliever I believe his ceiling is similar to what Juan Nicasio is doing now. Hopefully, Chad will prove me wrong.

So far, Chad Kuhl has been a strong starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Moving forward though, I believe his best home might be in the bullpen. In my opinion, this will be something to watch moving forward.