Chicago Cubs: All-Star nod still eludes consistent Kyle Hendricks

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Despite being one of the most consistent hurlers in the game, an All-Star nod has eluded Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks to this point in his career.

This year’s Midsummer Classic featured a trio of Chicago Cubs players, with two being named as starters. Yet, not among these names is arguably the team’s best pitcher: Kyle Hendricks.

The soft-tossing right-hander stands as one of the most underrated pitchers in the league, likely due to his remarkably low velocity. He simply isn’t known for blowing hitters away with triple-digit heaters that light up the radar guns or for racking up massive strikeout totals.

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What he excels at, however, is precision. Hendricks lives on the borders of the strike zone, with an elite 46.1 percent of his pitches being on the edges.

This method of pitching has helped him to a career 3.11 ERA and 1.117 WHIP. Throughout his tenure, he has never had an ERA over 4.00, showcasing a consistently high level of pitching production.

In 2016, Hendricks’ best year, he led the majors with an eye-popping 2.13 ERA, a 0.979 WHIP, and 170 strikeouts and still did not get the call to the All-Star game. On top of that, he finished third in Cy Young voting behind teammate and runner-up Jon Lester and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Perhaps his most amazing feat came earlier this year when Hendricks threw an 81-pitch Maddux against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Professor’s masterwork marked the first Maddux thrown by the Cubs since 2009.

With such consistent success, how exactly does Hendricks keep missing out on participating in the midsummer classic? Part of it stems from the right-hander having more success in the second half in some of his better years.

In 2016, Hendricks saw an already impressive 2.55 ERA and 1.034 WHIP drop to a beyond stellar 1.68 ERA with a 0.920 WHIP. 2017 and 2018 were more of the same as he dropped his ERA over 1.00 each year in the second half.

Still, this doesn’t fully explain his snub in 2016. There were a wealth of solid pitchers that year, but certainly, there was a place for The Professor.

As stated before, Hendricks’s M.O. isn’t to stun hitters with crazy velocity, but the same could be said for Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then again, it’s possible Hendricks would have to make up for his lack of dazzling firepower with an earth-shattering season akin to that of Ryu’s to become noticed.

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Hendricks still has a long career ahead of him, so there are plenty of opportunities for him to become an All-Star and, if he continues to improve, he’ll likely find himself there. All of this said, his consistent production for the Chicago Cubs is more valuable than any nomination to a meaningless exhibition game.