I’ve been to a lot of Kyle Hendricks starts at Wrigley Field this year – and he’s been an ace for the Chicago Cubs. On the road, it’s been a different tale.
It seems like every time I make my way to the Friendly Confines, Kyle Hendricks toes the rubber for the Chicago Cubs. And you know what? I’m perfectly fine with that. When the soft-tossing right-hander takes the ball at home, he’s as good as any hurler in the game. But when he leads the Cubs into battle on the road, it’s a different story altogether.
At home this season, Hendricks has limited opponents to a .189 average and absolutely abysmal .232 on-base percentage. That has culminated in a 1.79 ERA and a staggering 6.09 strikeout-to-walk mark. In short, you have to really work if you want to get on the board against Hendricks at Wrigley Field.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
That body of work is reminiscient of Hendricks’ stellar 2016 season, where he finished as a Cy Young finalist alongside teammate Jon Lester and won the Major League Baseball ERA title. He started the Cubs’ National League pennant-clinching game at Wrigley Field and took the ball in Game 7 of the World Series, keeping the Indians off-balance all night before falling victim to the quick hook of Joe Maddon.
But take him out of the Windy City and Hendricks looks like an entirely different pitcher altogether. Opponents are getting on at a .331 clip against him on the road – nearly a full hundred points better than in his home starts.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio is near-halved, as well, which means he’s causing more self-inflicted damage via the free pass.
Hendricks chatted with NBC Sports Chicago this week about utilizing his curve ball this season – something he thinks has helped him take the next step in his career.
"“It’s been huge for me just not being a two-pitch guy,” Hendricks said. “When you fall into that pattern, there are a lot more foul balls, your pitch count gets up. So just to present another look and the command I’ve had with it this year has probably been the best so far."
The right-hander’s change-up has long been the toast of the league in terms of off-speed stuff. He’s rode that pitch for years. But now, he’s giving hitters a different look – and it’s really shown in the second half (0.94 WHIP since the All-Star Break).
He’s been better away from Wrigley since that point, as well – minus a tough outing against the Reds earlier this month when he was torched for seven runs and 12 hits (in his three other August starts, he’s allowed a cumulative three earned runs). Signs are pointing up – but Wednesday represents a big test for both Hendricks and the Cubs.
With a chance to follow up Yu Darvish‘s lights-out start in the series opener, can Hendricks channel his home dominance at Citi Field? If he can, Chicago might finally feel a bit of momentum away from Wrigley Field.