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Kyle Hendricks’ breakout season in 2014 has Chicago Cubs excited

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Kyle Hendricks debut with the Chicago Cubs was nothing special. He survived some early jitters, allowed four runs, but held on to pitch six innings in a no-decision. Not many people knew what the Cubs had in the rookie they acquired from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster at the time. They do now.

Chicago Cubs. KYLE HENDRICKS. A-. 7-2, 2.46 ERA, 80.1 IP, 15 BB, 47 K, 1.083 WHIP. RHP

The young, soft-tossing right hander quickly showed an understanding of pitching beyond his years. Some pitchers have great “stuff”, but never have the ability to put it all together and be successful. In Hendricks case, it’s not about the repertoire. It’s cerebral. He knows what he has to throw to get outs, and more often than not he gets it done. The effort he gave this season even drew comparisons to another great Cubs’ pitcher, who was very similar in style; Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

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With a fastball that sits between 88 to 91 MPH, knowing how to pitch hitters is what sets Hendricks apart. His strikeout totals are low (5.3 per/9), which is why we was able to pitch so deep into games so often. He keeps his pitch count under control. With great command, and a well above-average change-up, it’s not hard to see where the Maddux comparisons come from.

In his first two starts, Hendricks issued three walks in each outing. He wouldn’t do that again the rest of the year. After his debut, he wouldn’t allow four runs in a game again until September 10 against the Toronto Blue Jays. In August, he had his finest stretch, going 4-0, posting a 1.69 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. He held opponents to a .206 AVG in that stretch on his way to winning the NL Rookie of the Month.

After his September 23 start, Hendricks was shut down for the season to give him some rest after a long year. His success has only helped to encourage the Cubs about their pitching staff after trading away two-fifths of the rotation in July. Hendricks, along with Jake Arrieta have formed a solid duo to build around on the pitching staff.

Hendricks had a phenomenal rookie year. And with his style of pitching- which is deceptive, and he pitches to contact- there’s no reason to think he won’t have continued success in the 2015 season. The Cubs know the pitching staff needs to be bolstered, but there’s no doubt that Hendricks put himself in position to be a key part of the starting staff next year.

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