A Different Pitch Selection Has Led To Success For Chad Kuhl

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 2: Chad Kuhl #39 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on June 2, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 2: Chad Kuhl #39 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on June 2, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Despite a tumultuous start to the season it appears that Chad Kuhl is turning a corner and hitting his stride

2017 saw Chad Kuhl complete his first full Major League season. After an up and down start to the season, Kuhl was able to finish strong posting a 3.58 ERA, 4.27 FIP, and a 22.3% strikeout rate in his 20 starts. After this strong finish, Kuhl appeared ready to take the next step in 2018.

However, the beginning of the 2018 season was not kind to Kuhl. Through his first six starts this season Kuhl was walking 7.0% of batters, striking out 19.7%, and he was allowing 1.95 HR/9. This led to Kuhl owning a 5.01 ERA and a 5.30 FIP while averaging just 5.4 innings per start.

After this rough start many fans – myself included – were calling for Kuhl to be removed from the rotation in favor of Nick Kingham. And while Kingham should still be in the rotation, it should no longer be in place of Kuhl.

Kuhl’s past seven starts have been a completely different story.

In his past seven starts Kuhl is averaging 5.81 innings per start and has posted a 3.10 ERA and a 4.08 FIP in these starts. While his walk rate has risen to 10.1%, his strikeout rate has risen to 24.3% while his home run rate has dropped to 1.11 HR/9 to help offset this.

What has been different for Kuhl his past seven starts? It’s simple – he is throwing his two best pitches more.

During this seven start stretch for Kuhl his fastball usage has gone down while his slider and curveball usage has increased. Kuhl’s two best pitches are his slider and curveball, which makes him using these pitches more and in turn finding increased success no surprise.

During this stretch Kuhl has also thrown changeup more often. Although, as we will look at, Kuhl may actually want to throw his changeup less.

Pitch TypeUsage Rate First 6 StartsUsage Rate Last 7 Starts
Fastball62.1%56.8%
Slider18.3%19.5%
Curveball11.6%14.5%
Changeup8.1%9.3%

Now, this is not to knock Kuhl’s fastball. After all, his average fastball velocity is 95.3 miles per hour which is above league average. That said, fastballs are still easier to hit than any sort of breaking or off-speed pitch.

Pitch TypeWhiff RateSlugging PercentagewOBA
Fastball17.6%.548.408
Slider40.8%.304.220
Curveball35.2%.098.100
Changeup15.7%.706.478

As you can see above, Kuhl’s best success has come this season when he’s thrown his slider and curveball. As for his changeup, it has been hammered this season. While Kuhl should not scrap his changeup, he certainly may want to look to use it less. Especially in right-on-right matchups.

Next: Pirates Avoid Being Swept By The D-Backs

If Kuhl continues to lean on slider moving forward there is no reason he can not continue his recent success. The next test for Kuhl and his new pitch selection will come at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow against the Reds.

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