Kuhl Whip – The Topping to Improve the 2020 Staff

Way back in my days at SI I wrote a piece about Chad Kuhl as I believed he could play a big role on the staff for 2020. Now that some time has passed and we’ve seen a bit more about how they plan to work him back in I thought we should revisit and remind ourselves exactly what Chad can be.

We’ve heard plans for him ranging from starter to middle relief all the way to closer, but the most credible comes from Derek Shelton himself who suggested he and Steven Brault may essentially co-start every fifth day.

Before Chad felt that nagging twinge in his pitching arm back in 2018, he was making progress as a starter. Quite frankly, the Pirates have had 3 starters in recent history with this kind of stuff, Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl.

Yeah, there’s no guarantee that Kuhl will step right back in where he was, but the upside is there, and we’ve seen what he can bring to the table in the past.

Take a look at these numbers from Brooks Baseball

That’s Five pitches, all quality with huge changes in speed and the ability to throw any of them any time for a strike. His changeup was the last one added and it still was getting hit more than the rest, so he compensated by tossing more curves to offset the speed. His arm speed doesn’t change from pitch to pitch however and that makes him a dangerous pitcher. Take a look at his whiff rates especially down in the zone and up in the zone.

Now take a look at Gerrit Cole.

That shows deceptive stuff and his biggest downfall was facing left handed batters and that seemingly started to enter the solved category as 2018 got into full swing.

In no way am I saying Chad Kuhl has the same skill set as Gerrit, nor am I saying they have the same ceiling, I am saying there are similarities there that should provide some optimism about what we could expect from Kuhl if he comes back full strength. It’s a window into just how dominant Kuhl can be when he is putting his pitches where he wants to.

There is more promise in this rotation than last season led us to believe and adding back in a talent like Kuhl will only enhance that level of talent. If nothing else Chad could and probably should cause a shorter than normal leash for members of the rotation to find their footing.

I could see Mr. Kuhl starting in the bullpen if only to build arm strength, but don’t be surprised if he ends up pushing for a spot in the rotation or at least splitting starts with Steven Brault. These are new eyes looking at these pitchers and decisions will be made in that light. How different does this rotation look not only this year but entering 2021 if Chad is a contributor?

If optimism has a name for me in 2020 it might very well be Chad Kuhl.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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