Chad Kuhl returned to the Pittsburgh Pirates after an injured list stint in late May. Since returning, he has pitched arguably the best baseball of his MLB career.
Dating back to when he made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in June 2016, Chad Kuhl has frustrated Pirate fans. When Kuhl debuted he possesses a power, turbo sinker. Since then, he has developed a power fastball to go with a curveball and slider that both have plus potential.
With the pure stuff that Kuhl possesses the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans alike have always gotten flashes of a pitcher who could be an above average pitcher in the Majors. However, inconsistency and struggles with his control have always plagued Kuhl.
Kuhl has a lifetime 10.3% walk rate, including a 14.2% walk rate last season and a 12.8% walk rate this season. He’s also allowed home runs at a rate of 1.18 HR/9, which is a tick higher than you would like to see. This has led to a lifetime 4.36 ERA and 4.59 FIP for Kuhl in 85 career appearances, 83 of which have been starts.
This season Kuhl has made 13 starts and pitched 61.2 innings. Thus far the 2021 season has been the tale of two seasons, however, Kuhl’s season before his injured list stint and Kuhl’s season since returning from the inured list.
Prior to going on the IL Kuhl was struggling mightily. In 4 starts before hitting the IL Kuhl posted a 6.32 ERA, 8.14 FIP, he was walking 21.1% of batters faced and was allowing home runs at a 2.30 HR/9 rate. Additionally, prior to hitting the IL Kuhl had averaged just 3.8 innings per start.
Kuhl returned from the IL on May 31 and has been a completely different pitcher since then. Across 9 starts since returning from the IL the righty has posted a 3.72 ERA and a 4.45 FIP. His walk rate has been just 9.5%, he’s struck out 20.5% of batters faced and he’s allowing home runs at a rate of just 0.98 HR/9.
Since returning from the IL opposing batters have struggled to square up Kuhl’s pitches. His average opponent exit velocity since returning from the IL has been just 87.8 MPH which is below the league average exit velocity for hitters. He has also been going deeper into games averaging 5.1 innings per start.
It can not be overlooked that Kuhl missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery and that when he made his 2020 debut it was his first MLB outing in over two calendar years. Throw in all of the struggles across baseball for pitchers in 2020 and Kuhl having that IL stint this season, and for the first time since 2018 Kuhl looks truly healthy and is consistently taking the ball every five days.
Right now Kuhl is pitching arguably the best baseball of his MLB career. A few weeks ago we identified Kuhl as a potential under-the-radar trade chip that the Pittsburgh Pirates could have. The way Kuhl has pitched in recent weeks has only fueled this belief.
With Kuhl pitching some of his best baseball right now it would not be a surprise to see the Pittsburgh Pirates try to capitalize on his value by trading him before Friday’s trade deadline. In fact, according to sources we have spoken with Kuhl has generated trade interest from multiple American League clubs. If the Pittsburgh Pirates do not trade Kuhl, watching how he is able to finish the season will be a storyline to watch in the final two months of the season.