Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Gradeout – Chad Kuhl

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a disappointing 2016 season. As the off-season begins, it is time to grade out the club. Today we look at a surprising young pitcher.

Many were awaiting Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon to lead the charge of young pitchers arriving to the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, but the name Chad Kuhl wasn’t on many radars.

Kuhl pitched very well at Triple-A Indianapolis, eventually earing himself a call-up to the main roster on June 26 where he held his own against perhaps the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw. After that, Kuhl pitched well enough to remain in the Pirates’ rotation the rest of the season and even though he showed signs of wearing down late in the season, put up decent numbers.

Kuhl finished 5-4 with a 4.20 ERA in his first 14 MLB starts. One impressive aspect of his first go around in the majors is that Kuhl gave the team a chance to win most nights out. He allowed only three earned runs or more in five of his 14 starts.

One of those was his debut when he allowed three earned runs in five innings vs. the Dodgers. Another came in a short outing against the St. Louis Cardinals in which Kuhl allowed three earned in just two innings before being removed and shut down for a short time. The other three came against the Chicago Cubs, a team many pitchers struggled against in 2016.

As a matter of fact, if you take out the 12 earned runs Kuhl allowed against Chicago in just 10.1 innings, he finished with a 3.15 ERA against the rest of baseball. That alone gives the organization a lot of hope that Kuhl can turn into a solid middle of the rotation starter.

Multi Pitch Arsenal

Kuhl tried to experiment with four pitches when joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. His four seem fastball has natural movement and is where Kuhl got the most swings and misses.  The two-seamer is hard and has sink. It generated ground balls, which is something the Pirates love out of their pitchers.

Kuhl’s slider and developing changeup have become go-to pitches as well. It bodes very well that Kuhl has burgeoning command of four legitimate, or soon to be legitimate, major league pitches. Having a full arsenal will stave off batters developing a “book” on the young hurler.

Still Needs More Whiff

One area of improvement for Kuhl heading into 2017 will be to get more swings and misses from his slider and change. Kuhl struck out less than a batter an inning (53 in 70.1 IP), which was below his minor league numbers.

Though Kuhl has a variety of pitches, none can be labelled as a pure “strike out pitch.” Not Yet.

While Kuhl wasn’t lit up in his first big league stint, he allowed 73 hits, more than a hit per inning. The league hit .264 off Kuhl and had a BABIP of .304, which were both just slightly higher than the league average.

Trouble With The Lefties

For Kuhl to have continual success against major league hitters, he must show he can get left handed bats out on a consistent basis.

Lefties hit Kuhl to a .291 clip on the season, while he limited righties to just a .240 average.

Yet with all of that, there were also some very positive signs as well.

Most notably Kuhl throws strikes. He threw over 1100 pitches with the Pittsburgh Pirates and 63 percent of them were in the strike zone. That helped Kuhl average just 3.64 pitches per plate appearance and 16.1 pitches per inning on the season. It should be no wonder, then, that Kuhl ended the year having given up just 20 walks.

Conclusions and Final Grade


Chad Kuhl was a name that was on nobody’s lips as the season began. Now, he seems to have an inside track on a starting rotation position for 2017. Improving against left handers and refining his strikeout ability are at the top of his homework list, but he surely did enough to earn a C+ grade for the 2016 season.

What Grade Would You Give Kuhl?

Agree with our grade? Disagree? Hop over to our Twitter feed and cast your vote on Kuhl’s 2016 grade.

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