Chad Kuhl Has Pitched Better Than You Think In 2017

Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl (39) walks on the field prior to playing the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl (39) walks on the field prior to playing the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

I have been very critical of Chad Kuhl this season, however, he has pitched better than many people, myself included, realize.

Right-handed starting pitcher Chad Kuhl made his Major League debut last June. It came in memorable fashion, as he helped to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to victory over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Chad Kuhl would then go on to have a strong rookie campaign. In 14 starts in 2016 he pitched 70 2/3 innings and posted a 4.20 ERA, 3.95 FIP, and a 0.9 fWAR. He averaged 6.75 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, and 0.89 HR/9.

Tonight, Chad Kuhl will get the ball against the Milwaukee Brewers. This will be his 14th start of his sophomore campaign. Through his first 13 starts of the season, Kuhl has drawn a lot of criticism from Pirate fans.

Through this first 13 starts, Kuhl’s overall numbers are not overly pretty. In 59 1/3 innings pitched he owns a 5.61 ERA, and his walk rate (3.79 BB/9) has also risen quite a bit over last season. Furthermore, his groundball rate has dropped from 44.3 percent in 2016 to 42.9 percent in 2017.

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However, Kuhl has been better than his 5.61 ERA in 2017. His 4.22 FIP indicates as much. Additionally, his 7.13 K/9 is an improvement over last season. Truth be told, Chad Kuhl’s numbers have been inflated by one very poor start.

On April 24th, the Chicago Cubs blew Chad Kuhl’s doors off. Kuhl allowed 9 earned runs on 8 hits, 4 walks, and a home run in 1 2/3 innings pitched in this start. Outside of this game, however, Kuhl has pitched pretty well.

In his other 12 starts, Chad Kuhl has pitched 57 2/3 inning. In these 57 2/3 innngs pitched he has allowed 58 hits, 5 home runs, and he is averaging 7.22 K/9 and 3.22 BB/9. This comes out to a 4.37 ERA and 3.93 FIP in these 12 starts, perfectly fine numbers for a back of the rotation starting pitcher.

Chad Kuhl has also experienced an increase in velocity this season, as well as mixing in a new weapon. Before the season started it was discussed at many places, Rum Bunter included, how Kuhl needed to add a third pitch this season, and in his past three starts, he has done just that.

First, for the increase in velocity. The average velocity of Chad Kuhl’s fastball in 2016 was 93.0 miles per hour. That number has jumped all the way to 95.3 miles per hour in 2017. As a result, opposing hitters have watched their wRC+ off of his fastball drop by 38 points this season, their wOBA by 48 points, and their slugging percentage by a remarkable 150 points.

His swinging strike rate on his fastball has improved from 6.9 percent in 2016 to 8.9 percent in 2017, while his contact rate has dropped from 82.2 percent to 77.9 percent. In every measurable fashion, Chad Kuhl’s fastball has been a much better pitch in 2017 than it was in 2016.

As for that new weapon of his, it has been a curveball. And it’s a curveball that has been very, very good.

In his past three starts, Chad Kuhl has started to throw this curveball. He has thrown 31 curveballs this season and he has allowed just one hit, which was a solo home run, off of his curveball. This curveball is quickly becoming a much needed new weapon for Kuhl.

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While Chad Kuhl’s overall numbers in 2017 are not overly impressive, he has pitched much better than these numbers indicate. One disaster start against the Cubs has diluted his overall numbers, and he has seen a big increase in velocity this season. If Kuhl continues to pitch the way he has, when the season ends his numbers will look much better.