Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks looks to keep pace in 2017
After finishing the 2016 season as a Cy Young candidate, can Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks keep up the pace heading into the 2017 season?
With less than two weeks to go before Opening Day 2017, the Chicago Cubs have announced their rotation order to start the year, with Kyle Hendricks in the fifth spot. It may seem odd to have last year’s NL ERA leader pitching fifth in the rotation, but manager Joe Maddon has his reasons.
The thought process here is that John Lackey will be able to pitch in the St. Louis series while moving Brett Anderson ahead of Hendricks ensures the Cubs won’t have lefties starting back-to-back games. With the Cubs gearing up for a repeat campaign, can Kyle Hendricks make this season an extension of his unbelievable 2016?
What do the Cubs need from Hendricks?
Like Jake Arrieta‘s second half of the 2015 season, what Hendricks did last season seemed to be somewhat of an anomaly. Last year, the 27-year-old went 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA over a career-high 190.0 innings pitched.
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While it would certainly be a bit unrealistic to expect the same numbers this season, it’s not completely unfathomable to think he could at least get close. Even if he doesn’t, the reality is Hendricks doesn’t need to post an ERA that low to chalk it up as another successful year on the mound.
With Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta still in the rotation, Hendricks doesn’t need to be a Cy Young candidate for the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Central for a second straight year.
Hendricks’ keys to success
In 2016, Kyle Hendricks was one of the few starting pitchers in the MLB to have an average fastball velocity under 90 mph. Clocking in at just 89.7 mph, Hendricks does not have a flamethrower for an arm; and he uses that to his advantage. Unlike starters who rely on upper-90’s fastballs to succeed, guys who lack high-velocity stuff and induce ground balls to get their outs tend to have a clearer path to a longer career.
This is Kyle Hendricks’ game. Mix things up, use the curveball and changeup effectively and pitch to soft contact. Last year we saw a level of consistency from Hendricks that simply was not there in 2015.
Dazzling at home, Hendricks pitched to the tune of a 1.32 ERA in 95.1 innings at Wrigley Field last season. He was no slouch on the road either. In 94.2 innings pitched during away games, Hendricks recorded a 2.95 ERA.
Even more impressive? Hendricks dominated hitters on both sides of the plate. Lefties only managed to hit .217 off him, while righties hit a paltry .196. What’s more, Hendricks showed no signs of tiring as the season went on last year.
Recording a 2.55 ERA in the first half of the season, Hendricks somehow got even better and posted a 1.68 ERA for the second half of the season. His game allows him to avoid fatigue more so than his hard-tossing counterparts. There’s no reason to think this formula won’t work again this season.
Next: Why Brett Anderson needs to start the year in the rotation
Hendricks appears ready to go
Though not a lot of stock is put into Spring Training numbers, Hendricks has looked sharp thus far. If he can stick to last year’s routine, 2017 should shape up to be another impressive year for the young right-hander.
Hendricks’ first regular season start is slated for April 8th when the Chicago Cubs will take on the Brewers in Milwaukee.