Last season, the Chicago Cubs had themselves their first Cy Young winner in a long time. Entering the 2016 campaign, most thought there was a good chance that specific someone would repeat. That was not the case.
In case you forgot, that certain someone was Chicago Cubs right-hander, Jake Arrieta. Arrieta stumbled after starting out the year strong and even pitching his second no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in April.
Back when the Cubs were showcasing some young faces, we all knew how special Kyle Hendricks could be. Under Chris Bosio, Hendricks continued to improve on the bump, turning in his strongest year of his young career.
Having to sit behind both Arrieta and Jon Lester, none of the attention seemed to be on Hendricks or at least not right away. But as time went on, everyone started to pay attention to the 27-year-old Dartmouth graduate.
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Aside from his outstanding earned run average, what really stood out was Kyle’s ability to strikeout batter’s without much velocity. The way he was able to keep opposing hitters guessing really worked in his favor.
And honestly, there wasn’t much to it. Which brings us back to the lowest ERA in the entire league. Yes, reigning Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw missed some time due to a back injury that sidelined him for most of the second half.
Cy Young Surprise
However, even if Kershaw was around, Hendricks was having the year of his life, cruising his way to 16 wins with eight losses under his belt. We all knew his name was going to be tossed in the N.L. Cy Young race.
With a sinker that tops off at 90, curveball at 79, cutter barely scraping 90, and his four-seam fastball topping 91, Hendricks continued to dazzle. At one point, he flirted with history while squaring off against the St. Louis Cardinals.
He took a no-hitter deep into the ninth inning but gave up a solo home run which ended his night, resulting in fans giving him a standing ovation. Even Cardinals faithful tipped their hat to Joe Maddon‘s young gun out of respect.
Which was a nice moment. And then, the postseason came around. First, let’s scratch off his short appearance against the Giants when he was struck by a line drive. It forced him out after 3 2/3 innings where he yielded two earned runs on three hits.
However, he was lights out from there on out. Over the course of his final four starts, Hendricks gave up only two earned runs on 15 hits while striking out 19 and walking seven in 20 2/3 innings.
He lost one game against Kershaw but managed to outduel him in the series clincher, lifting Chicago to their first pennant since 1945. A very special moment for a kid who was familiar with pitching in key games and it didn’t stop there.
The Professor shined in two World Series starts despite losing a one-run game at the hands of the Indians at Wrigley. Hendricks bounced back with another solid performance in Game 7, grinding out what should have been more than 4 2/3 frames.
Over the course of the regular season, Hendricks pitched his second complete game and held an ERA of one between July 1st and August 1st. Not to mention he was named Pitcher of the Month for August after finishing with a perfect 4-0 record.
In that month, he gave up only six earned runs on 26 hits, 36 strikeouts, seven walks, and an opposing average of .179 in 42 1/3 innings of work.
Will he be able to duplicate this year and hopefully, outshine Max Scherzer in 2017? There is a strong possibility if he can keep healthy throughout the year.