Coming off of an extension in the offseason, Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks has failed to live up to the billing thus far this season.
Kyle Hendricks has taken the ball for the some of the most important games in Chicago Cubs history. It was Hendricks that got the Cubs off to a good start in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. He also out-dueled Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS to propel his team to the Fall Classic.
As unflappable as Hendricks has proven to be, he has had his fair share of struggles to start the season. In 2018, Hendricks had a first half ERA of 3.92 and lowered it to 2.84 in the second half. the soft-tossing right-hander has struggled mightily coming out of the gate in 2019. He’s currently 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA, and he isn’t producing nearly as much soft contact as Cubs fans have grown accustomed to.
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Hendricks seems like the type of pitcher who battles to find his mechanics at times. However, when everything is clicking, the soft-tossing Hendricks can be among the most devastating pitchers in baseball.
"‘‘Still battling myself,’’ Hendricks said via Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘Running my changeup too much. My fastball command wasn’t there, really, again. At least the movement was better."
Hendricks isn’t going to light up any radar gun or blow anybody away with sharp breaking pitches, so his process is even more important than most pitchers around the league.
Victim of Maddon’s quick hook?
Ever since Joe Maddon took over as manager for the Cubs in 2015, he’s implemented a quick hook for his starting pitchers on most games. While Maddon’s philosophy of relying on his bullpen is relatively consistent, it seems that Hendricks has been pulled early in games more than most.
In Hendricks’ last start against the Angels, he was pulled after five innings. He had allowed two earned runs and was at 87 pitches. Granted, Hendricks wasn’t as sharp as he can be, but he he was capable of extending his outing further.
Maddon used a tandem of Brad Brach, Randy Rosario and Allen Webster in the sixth inning, all of whom struggled. Once the inning was over, two runs had scored, and the Cubs were down 5-2. Normally, Maddon pulls the right strings with his bullpen. Over the past three seasons, the Cubs have consistently had a bullpen that ranks in the top five in ERA. This year may be different, and the Chicago skipper will have to adjust accordingly.
For this team to be successful, the Chicago Cubs are going to have to rely on their established starting rotation to make up for a beleaguered bullpen. Hendricks is going to have to be prepared to pitch deeper into games going forward.
The Cubs simply don’t have a good enough bullpen to pick up the slack if Hendricks were to continue struggling. The Cubs invested in Hendricks, and now it’s time for him to step up. It’s time for the 2016 version of Kyle Hendricks to resurrect himself.