Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks finds focus through yoga
By Robert Davis
Ever wonder what makes Chicago Cubs’ silent stud Kyle Hendricks so calm and composed? According to the young hurler, it’s yoga.
MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat spoke with Hendricks recently, and he divulged just how the ancient art of discipline helped him overcome some tight situations.
Remember the third inning of Game 7? The Cleveland Indians had runners on first and second in a tie game. Francisco Lindor was at the plate, ahead 3-0 in the count. Hendricks stepped off the mound and took a breath, making himself aware of the situation. He knew this batter could swing momentum against Chicago.
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"“I said, ‘What do I need to do? I need a fastball down and away, I’ve got to get a strike,'” Hendricks said."
He executed his pitch perfectly, throwing a low outside two-seam fastball. Lindor softly flew out to Ben Zobrist in left as a result. Hendricks continued this breathing routine through the inning, escaping without allowing any runs.
"“If I wasn’t aware of what was going on that way, things definitely could’ve sped up on me,” Hendricks said. “Who knows what would’ve happened?”"
That’s the difference yoga has made on Hendricks’ pitching.
Maintaining an advantage
Hendricks said that yoga has definitely helped his flexibility and strength, but the biggest difference he’s seen is the mental aspect of it. He even attributed yoga to his pitching success which earned him his first League ERA title.
It all started one day toward the end of Hendricks’ tenure at Dartmouth College. He walked into a yoga class and tried to hide in the back. As he attended classes, Hendricks began translating what he was learning in the studio to the baseball diamond.
Hendricks had his major breakthrough when he realized his feelings of nervousness and embarrassment were outside forces he was too keen on.
"“I’d have games in the past, and it would be hard to focus — I know it sounds kind of dumb,” Hendricks said. “Yoga has really made things clearer and now that I do it every single day, I notice when I go in there in the morning, every day is a little different."
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Measuring the difference
The reigning NL ERA king made 30 starts in 2016, recording career-highs in strikeouts (170) and LOB% (81.5). Hendricks only allowed one inherited run all season as well. If the Cubs were to replace Hendricks with an average MLB starter, they would have given up 47 more runs last year.
This is why many Cubs fans were crooning at Joe Maddon when he took Hendricks out of Game 7 early. Hendricks was the model of consistency for the Cubs pitching staff. Kyle gave up just one run in his nine total innings of work in the World Series while striking out eight. It’s a coaches dream to have a 27-year-old who’s so composed in high-leverage situations.