Pittsburgh Pirates: Chad Kuhl Finding Success as a Reliever

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Chad Kuhl #39 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park on September 7, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Chad Kuhl #39 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park on September 7, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Since returning from the injured list and transitioning to a bullpen role Chad Kuhl has been pitching well with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Throughout his MLB career Chad Kuhl has been a starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Entering the 2021 season Kuhl had pitched in 72 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates dating back to 2016. 70 of these 72 appearances came as a starting pitcher.

Both ‘relief’ appearances for Kuhl came last season and neither of these were true relief outings. They came when Kuhl piggybacked off of an opener in a game. So, despite technically having a pair of relief appearances in his MLB career, Kuhl has always been a starting pitcher.

In Kuhl’s career he owns a 4.42 ERA, 4.57 FIP and a 1.18 HR/9 rate. Kuhl has struggled with control walking 10.2% of batters faced while striking out 20.7% of opposing batters. These results have come in 433.2 innings pitched.

Despite always working as a starting pitcher it has long been speculated that Kuhl would be best suited to pitch out of the bullpen. This is due to Kuhl possessing a fastball that could play up to be a plus power fastball out of the bullpen, as well as a slider/curveball combo that could be deadly in relief.

Pitching out of relief could also help to offset some of Kuhl’s relief issues. This would also negate the struggles Kuhl has always had in his career when facing a lineup for a third time. The third time through a lineup opposing batters have hit for a .287/.375/.495 slash line off of Kuhl. When a pitcher struggles to get through a lineup a third time it indicates a pitcher who is best suited for the bullpen and that is the case with Kuhl.

Since moving to the bullpen Kuhl has made seven appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had an outing in which he allowed 5 earned runs on 6 hits and a pair of home runs while recording just a single out against the Cubs. Outside of this disastrous appearance, Kuhl has been excellent out of the bullpen.

Taking away that outing against the Cubs Kuhl has allowed just 1 run in 7 innings pitched. Kuhl has allowed just 5 hits in these 7 innings pitched and has not allowed a home run. While his 11.1% walk rate is higher than you want to see his strikeout rate has spiked to 33.3% out of the bullpen.

Since moving to the bullpen Kuhl has found success. The trio of Kuhl, Chris Stratton and David Bednar gives the Pittsburgh Pirates an excellent back end of the bullpen group. This offseason Kuhl could be on the trading block, but the Pirates may be better served to keep Kuhl and transition him to a full-time bullpen role in 2022.

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By doing this the Pirates would give themselves a potentially shutdown trio of relievers at the back end of their bullpen entering the 2022 season which could help to rectify some of the bullpen woes from this season. Additionally, this would allow Kuhl to improve his trade value as a reliever which could lead to the Pirates netting a strong return for Kuhl as a reliever next summer.

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