The soft-tossing Kyle Hendricks has been arguably the most underrated pitchers in the National League the past four years, and he wants to continue that with a more consistent 2019.
While Jon Lester is often considered as the ace of the Chicago Cubs, Kyle Hendricks may be the most efficient starter they have. A career 3.07 ERA, 3.52 FIP and 1.1 WHIP in 789 innings speak for itself, not to mention a career 2.98 postseason ERA in 11 appearances.
Last season’s numbers overall were still excellent: 3.44 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. It is worth noting that Hendricks’s BB/9 was the lowest of his career in seasons which he pitched over 100 innings and his BABIP against (.281) was precisely the same as it was in 2017.
However, as most Cubs’ fans know he had an inconsistent first half and struggling mightily with the long ball before really dominating in the second half. That particular second half included a 1.79 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in six September/October starts. Hendricks will be hoping to see more consistency in 2019.
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Last year’s season and moving forward
Identifying the cause of Hendricks’s struggles was half the battle during his mid-season slump. He gave up 17 home runs in 19 starts in the first half, which was among the league leaders. His worst month was June when he posted a 7.03 ERA, 6.33 FIP, 1.7 WHIP and horrific 13.6% walk rate in five starts. His 16.4% strikeout rate was lower than any other month.
Hendricks was clearly having some mechanical problems, the command was gone which was something he has thrived on. After making adjustments, he posted a 2.78 ERA and only gave up six homers from his first July start until the end of the year, which totaled 17 games. Note that in his first 16 games before July he walked 29 batters and in his last 17 he walked only 15. The Professor was back.
Looking in 2019 we will hopefully see a more consistent Hendricks. The past few seasons we had a few bumps in the road whether a bad stretch or the injury he had in 2017. Both times he was able to overcome in the end and put up very good numbers, but a full season of Hendricks being efficient and going deep into games will be huge. In his last eight starts he went seven or more innings five times, he struggled with that like many other starters early and the pen was exhausted.
There is a reason for optimism as Hendricks identified his issues last season and has expressed good feelings for their new pitching coach earlier this season. Get your scorecards and books because soon, class will be back in session.