39 days until the Pittsburgh Pirates have their first Spring Training workout


The first workout of pitchers and catchers at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida, of Spring Training 2018 is now just 39 days away

The countdown to Spring Training 2018 is now under 40 days. In just 39 days, pitchers and catchers of the Pittsburgh Pirates will take to the fields of Pirate City in Bradenton for their first workout of the spring.

Ever since his Major League debut in June of 2016 right-handed pitcher Chad Kuhl has worn number 39 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After making 14 starts in 2016, Kuhl finished second on the team in starts in 2017 with 31. The 25-year-old Kuhl will now look to take the next step in 2018.

Chad Kuhl pitched just 157 1/3 innings in his 31 starts in 2017. This is an average of 5.08 innings per start. However, after pitching more than five innings in just two of his first 15 starts he pitched more than five innings in 10 of his final 16 starts. This was just one of the ways Kuhl improved as the season progressed.

All in all last season Kuhl averaged 8.12 K/9, 4.12 K/9, he threw eight wild pitches, he plunked six batters, and he allowed 17 home runs. All of this led to him owning a 4.35 ERA, 4.24 FIP, and a 1.9 fWAR in 2017.

Over the course of those final 16 starts Kuhl allowed just nine home runs while averaging 8.49 K/9 and 4.50 BB/9. Kuhl owned a 3.38 ERA and a 4.20 FIP in these 16 starts, after posting a 5.58 ERA and a 4.77 FIP in his 15 starts. So, despite continuing to struggle with his control throughout the season, Kuhl grew leaps and bounds during the final three months of 2017.

Another area of growth for Kuhl was the incorporation of a curveball. After not throwing it to begin the season, he threw it 6.3 percent of time in his final 16 starts. This pitch made a huge difference, especially against left-handed hitters, during his final 16 starts of the season. Additionally, he saw his average fastball rise from 93.2 miles per hour in 2016 to 95.5 miles per hour in 2017.

If all goes according to plan in 2018, then Chad Kuhl will continue to improve as a Major League starting pitcher. If not, then his best bet might be to transition to a swingman role similar to that of Chad Greene of the Yankees.

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2018 is a big year for Chad Kuhl. If he can build upon the final three months of his 2017 campaign, then the Pirates will have a very strong middle of the rotation arm on their hands in Kuhl. If not, then his best bet moving forward may be a move to a swingman role in the bullpen.