If Chad Kuhl Is Hurt, How Can The Pirates Replace Him?


What can the Pittsburgh Pirates do if Chad Kuhl were to end up on the disabled list?

Sunday afternoon’s start for Pirate right-handed starting pitcher Chad Kuhl was an abbreviated one. The reason it was abbreviated was due to Kuhl taking a line drive off the bat of Dee Gordon to the knee in the 5th inning. This ended Chad Kuhl’s afternoon after 4 innings and a batter.

While Kuhl had struggled through the first 4 innings on Sunday afternoon, he was bending but not breaking. In his 4 innings of work he allowed 3 runs, 1 of which scored after he left the game and only 2 of which were earned, on 7 hits, a walk, and 4 strikeouts. He was also the benefactor of a ground ball double play in both the 1st and 2nd innings.

On the season Chad Kuhl has pitched 23 innings in 5 starts. In these 23 innings pitched he is averaging 7.43 K/9, but control has been an issue as he is averaging 4.70 BB/9. He has a strong FIP of 3.74, but his 5.79 xFIP indicates he is due for regression.

However, his BABIP of .365 suggests that he has been victimized by bad luck and/or bad defense. Also, he has allowed just 1 home run. It has truly been a mixed bag for Chad Kuhl thus far in 2017.

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After Sunday, Kuhl may require a stint on the disabled list. He attempted to stay in the game, but after three warmup pitches departed with manager Clint Hurdle and team trainer Todd Tomczyk.

So now the question becomes if Chad Kuhl goes on the disabled list how can the Pittsburgh Pirates replace him in their starting rotation?

The most likely replacement would not be a popular one. This likely replacement is right-handed starting pitcher Drew Hutchison. The reason for this is that Hutchison started for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday, therefore aligning his turn in the Triple-A rotation with Kuhl’s turn in the Major League rotation.

Through his 4 starts of the Triple-A season, Drew Hutchison owned a 4.17 FIP and a 4.13 xFIP in 21 1/3 innings pitched. He was averaging 7.59 K/9, 3.80 BB/9, and he had allowed just 2 home runs. However, Hutchison struggled on Sunday allowing 5 runs, 3 earned, on 8 hits and a home run in 5 1/3 innings pitched.

Another option would be Steven Brault, who has also struggled at Triple-A this season. The left-handed starter owns a 4.52 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, and is averaging 4.56 BB/9 in 25 2/3 innings pitched for the Indianapolis Indians in 2017.

A third option would be to move Trevor Williams to the starting rotation while promoting a reliever such as Dovydas Neverauskas or A.J. Schugel to the Major Leagues. Personally, this is what I would do. While none of the three options above are very good ones to replace Kuhl, Williams has the best stuff, and therefore the highest ceiling, of the trio.

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An injury to Chad Kuhl would be a tough one for the Pirate rotation to handle. The Bucs have very little starting pitching depth, especially while Nick Kingham is still on the minor league disabled list, and it may get tested quickly.

I am far from a fan of Chad Kuhl’s and do not believe he has the stuff or pitches to maintain long-term success in the Major Leagues, but he is simply one of the Pirates’ five best options right now.

The Pirate roster is already in a tough spot being without Adam Frazier, David Freese, Jung Ho Kang, and Starling Marte. Starting pitching is what has kept this team afloat through the first month of the season. Hopefully, Chad Kuhl will not require a disabled list. Because if he does, none of the options to replace him are good ones.