Exit Interviews – Kyle Hendricks Needs A Membership Card To Get Inside
I think most of us have a soft spot for Hendricks. He’s the only starter who came up through most of the system (though he was a trade just like Arrieta). We can also kind of imagine throwing as hard as he does, because it’s not all that far from what we can actual throw. And if you’re a dork like me, any pitcher that has to think his way through a lineup instead of just pulling out Smash TV level of weaponry has a certain appeal. And when he’s on, and you can sort of think along with him and see these major league hitters being sat down by stuff that couldn’t break wind, it’s a unique thrill.
The problem is we don’t know if it adds up to enough, and Hendricks might find himself on the outside looking in on the rotation depending on what moves the Cubs end up making for the rotation.
Hendricks’s big problem is that he basically got torched by left handed hitters. While an overall .264 average against them doesn’t look horror film, that slugging percentage of .472 and the wOBA of .343 is getting there. Early in the year, I wrote in the publication that Hendricks was going to have to figure out a way to get lefties out. His cutter didn’t move into them, and unless he perfected the Maddux come-back pitch, everything was moving toward the barrel of their very excited bats. Hendricks didn’t really ever figure that out, judged by his zone chart to them.
Clealry, he didn’t want to mess with anything near them. But when you look at what lefties slugged and where…
The one that jumps out at me there is the .800 on pitches middle-high but outside of the zone. Basically, lefties could just lean out there knowing they would never have to worry about the pitch inside and were hooking pitches there very far. Or just torquing them the other way at speeds that you can hear.
On the plus side, Hendricks’s 51.3% ground-ball rate was top-20 in the league, and given his age and studious ways you feel like he knows he’s got to pump that up to 55% or higher. Hendricks only got to pitch in front of the optimum infield defense for the season’s last six weeks or two months, and next year Addison Russell will be at short the whole time and Baez will be used more often (if he’s here).
The thing is, I don’ know what Hendricks can add to the arsenal. A curve? He throws one now basically as a party favor, just to throw someone off guard. I doubt it’ll ever become a pitch he can use regularly. He doesn’t have a slider, and when you don’t have a big fastball it’s rare that you’re going to have a good slider either. Essentially Hendricks’s success is going to boil down to whether he can finagle his cutter/sinker/whatever he calls it to break into lefties and away from righties as well as the opposite which he can do now. He does throw his change both ways, so it’s probably there.
But then, is it going to matter? If the Cubs pick up two arms as has been suggested, then it’s a choice between Hammel and Hendricks to round out the rotation. Hammer certainly has the higher ceiling, though he also has the lower floor as we’ve seen. Hendricks wouldn’t really do you any good out of the pen given his stuff. In reserve at Iowa when injuries hit? Added spice to whatever trade they may make? Or the cheaper option given how expensive the rotation could get?