Chicago Cubs: Grading Kyle Hendricks’ 2017 season

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 17: Kyle Hendricks
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 17: Kyle Hendricks /
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A year after posting Cy Young-caliber numbers, Chicago Cubs’ righty Kyle Hendricks enjoyed another successful season amidst injuries

B+. . SP. Chicago Cubs. KYLE HENDRICKS

Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks burst onto the scene in 2014, making 13 starts and posting a 2.43 ERA. With an ERA+ of 154, the 24-year-old Hendricks finished seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

With a solid partial season behind him, Hendricks set himself up for a bigger role moving forward. Indeed, in 2015, Hendricks made 32 starts and logged 180 innings. In that time, he posted a 3.95 ERA and struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings. While his 96 ERA+ was below league average, Hendricks did enough to stick around the rotation.

In 2016, at the age of 26, Hendricks took off. The soft-tossing right-hander made 31 appearances (30 starts), winning 16 decisions. Hendricks also tossed two complete games in 2016 and logged a career-high 190 innings pitched. In addition to that, Hendricks posted a 2.13 ERA, good enough to lead the National League.

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A year after posting a 96 ERA+ in 2015, Hendricks posted a 196 mark in 2016, finishing third in the NL Cy Young voting and 23rd in the MVP voting.

Hendricks solid once again despite injury

The 2017 season started slow for Hendricks. At 27 years old, Hendricks posted a 4.18 ERA in 28 innings pitched in the month of April. His performance picked up in May as Hendricks logged a 3.34 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings pitched.

After making a start against the St. Louis Cardinals on Jun. 4, Hendricks was placed on the 10-day DL with a hand injury. What was supposed to be a quick trip to the disabled list lasted the rest of June and the majority of July. Hendricks finally returned to the rotation on Jul. 24.

Once Hendricks returned from injury, he was a whole different pitcher. In his two starts in July, the righty logged a 1.93 ERA and eight strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings pitched. That success continued as Hendricks posted a 2.41 and 2.01 ERA in August and September respectively.

Put together the whole season and it was a solid one for Hendricks. In 24 starts, he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA. Along with that, Hendricks struck out 123 batters in 139 2/3 innings pitched and logged an ERA+ of 144.

Hendricks’ role moving forward

With the slight decline of Jon Lester in 2017 and the absence of Jake Arrieta, Hendricks seems to be the early favorite to be Opening Day starter. While that in itself does not mean much, Hendricks has been consistently good since making his big league debut. That consistency could very well launch him to ace status in 2018.

In addition to Hendricks’ dominance during the regular season, the right-hander has been equally as good in the postseason. Hendricks has amassed 50 postseason innings dating back to 2015. In that span, Hendricks has went 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 48 strikeouts.

Hendricks has made 100 career big league appearances. In that time, he has pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA. That and the fact that he will not be a free agent until at least 2021 makes Hendricks a key part of the Cubs’ rotation moving forward.

2018 projection

With his injury behind him and two very solid seasons under his belt, the sky is the ceiling for Hendricks in 2018. Baseball-reference.com, however, has Hendricks taking a small step backward in 2018.

According to their projection, Hendricks will go 9-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 148 innings pitched. It also has him striking out 136 batters, 8.3 per nine innings.

While I would take a 3.22 ERA from Hendricks, I do not see the right-hander throwing only 148 innings (barring injury). Instead, I would predict Hendricks to join the 200-inning club for the first time in his career.

Reason for the grade

Kyle Hendricks continued his success in 2017. If not for an injury, Hendricks very well could have challenged for a Cy Young award for the second straight season. With that being said, the right-hander did get off to a slow start in 2017. It is unknown whether that was due to a nagging injury or something else, but the fact remains.

Despite his injury, Hendricks pitched well to end the season and continued that success into the postseason. In two NLDS starts against the Washington Nationals, Hendricks posted a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings pitched. Following that, Hendricks posted a 5.40 ERA in one start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.

While those numbers may not be as good as they were in 2016, Hendricks showed a nice rebound following a prolonged injury.

Next: Chicago Cubs: Where will Jake Arrieta land this offseason?

Overall, Hendricks had an above average season that would have been even better if not for injury.

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