Chicago Cubs: Who is the ace of this pitching staff?
Kyle Hendricks – RHP
I don’t think there is a more unassuming “ace” than Kyle Hendricks. I almost want to appoint him the winner because nothing will change. Nothing. But we have to dig into the numbers to see if he could be the ace of this staff, or if he’s better as a No. 2 or 3. But can you believe that this was our fifth starter just a few years ago? Gives some hope to Chatwood coming along, but I digress.
Projections for Hendricks are tight because of the time he missed due to the hand injury. His Marcels projection has him at a 9-6 record with a 3.22 ERA. But that only has him down for 148 innings. This is someone who–even with the injury–posted an ERA+ of 144 last season. And that was coming off a 196 in 2016. These are spectacular numbers for a pitcher who doesn’t overpower and knows how to pitch, not throw.
Only one-time last season did Hendricks get “hammered,” and that was allowing five runs in five innings against the San Diego Padres. And this was during a stretch before the injury that may have attributed to his poor performance. Once he came back from it, however, he was as good as he was before. In his last 13 games of the regular season, Hendricks ERA was a minuscule 2.19, striking out 72 while walking just 19. He gave up 17 home runs, with the fewer innings pitched was a bit of a concern. But they didn’t harm him as much as other pitchers on the staff.
So is Hendricks ready to be the guy on this staff? He doesn’t throw hard. He won’t put you away with high heat, but a well-placed changeup. When you look at his numbers, strikeouts aren’t going to impress you. You really need to be a fan of metrics to appreciate how good he is. But is he good enough to get the ball on Opening Day?