Chad Kuhl Has A Lefty Problem
In 2016 Chad Kuhl made his Major League debut. Despite having success, there are some questions around his ability to sustain the success in the Major Leagues.
During the 2016 season the Pittsburgh Pirates watched five starting pitching prospects make their Major League debuts. These five pitchers were Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, and Tyler Glasnow. Other than Taillon, Chad Kuhl was the most successful pitcher in this group.
In 2016 Kuhl made 14 starts for the Pirates and pitched 70 2/3 innings. In these 70 2/3 innings pitched Kuhl averaged 6.75 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9, and he had a WHIP of 1.32. Chad Kuhl also generated a 44.3 percent ground ball rate.
These numbers led to Kuhl posting a 4.20 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 4.53 xFIP, and a 0.9 WAR during his rookie campaign. While these appear to be good numbers for a back of the rotation starting pitcher, Chad Kuhl’s case continues to be a peculiar one. And that is because he still lacks something vital.
What Kuhl lacks is an out pitch against left-handed batters. During the 2016 season he held right-handed hitters to a .240 batting average against, a .295 wOBA, and a .380 slugging percentage. However, he was not nearly as successful against left-handed hitters.
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Left-handed batters hit .291 against Chad Kuhl in 2016. This included a .496 slugging percentage and a wOBA of .363. Also, 5 of the 7 home runs that Kuhl allowed in 2016 came against left-handed batters.
Throughout his Minor League career left-handed batters always plagued Chad Kuhl. So, struggling against them in the Major Leagues in 2016 was nothing new. To be honest, it should have been expected.
Left-handed batters did not just hit Chad Kuhl in 2016, they hit him hard. During the 2016 season left-handed batters had a 37 percent hard contact rate and a 23.8 percent line drive rate against Kuhl. For comparison sake right-handed batters had just a 29.3 percent hard contact rate and a 15.8 percent line drive rate against Kuhl in 2016.
Primarily, Chad Kuhl throws three pitches. These three pitches are a sinker, a slider, and a change up. However, none of them have proven capable of consistently getting left-handed batters out. Typically a change up can help a right-handed pitcher retire left-handed batters, however, in 2016 that was not the case with Kuhl.
In 2016 Kuhl’s change up was hit hard. Opposing batters had a .375 batting average, .438 slugging percentage, and a 131 wRC+ off of Kuhl’s change up.
Until Chad Kuhl develops a pitch to retire left-handed hitters, he will never be more than a back end of the rotation starting pitcher. Honestly, without said pitch there is no guarantee that he will stick in a Major League rotation. And this is a big reason why I believe the Pirates need to add another starting pitcher this offseason.
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Entering the 2016 season Chad Kuhl is a lock for the Pirate rotation. He will slot in the back of the rotation behind Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Ivan Nova. However, if he does not develop a pitch to get left-handed batters out he may not last in the Pirate starting rotation.