Kyle Hendricks doesn’t get much attention compared to other starting pitchers or other Chicago Cubs players. Yet he had another nice season in 2019.
This offseason, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing what went right and what went wrong in 2019 with the Chicago Cubs. A lot of players are getting attention: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, and Craig Kimbrel are all getting their fair share of press. Will they stay? Will they go? Will they have a good 2020?
Yet here’s a question that I have: Why are we not talking more about Kyle Hendricks? Not only has he had a solid career with the Cubs, but he’s also coming off a nice 2019 season.
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The right-hander quietly and unassumingly continued to go about his business in 2019. He pitched like a solid #2 starter throughout the year, putting up a 3.46 ERA in 177 innings pitched. At home, that ERA was 2.04, while he saved some of his best pitching for the rival St. Louis Cardinals, allowing five earned runs in 28 1/3 innings pitched.
What’s particularly great about Hendricks is that he doesn’t beat himself with walks. In 2019, he only had one start in which he allowed more than two free passes, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio and walks per nine innings ratio were both the best of his career. The former was a tremendous 4.69. Another testament to his control: He only has one wild pitch over the past three seasons.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hendricks had a nice year. 2019 was the sixth year in a row in which he posted an ERA of under 4.00, and it was the fourth time in the last five years that he’s made at least 30 starts.
With all the uncertainty currently surrounding the team, the soon-to-be 30-year-old is one of the players that Cubs fans should be able to count on for another solid season in 2020. Thankfully, we haven’t heard any trade rumors involving him.
Two of the current front office’s smartest moves involve Hendricks. The first was the trade they made with the Texas Rangers in 2012 to acquire Hendricks while he was still in the minor leagues, sending veteran Ryan Dempster, who was having a career year, the other way. The other smart move was to lock Hendricks up long-term, as he’s currently signed through at least 2023. As many of the other “core” players are not signed long-term yet, the front office clearly thought that Hendricks was a priority.
“The Professor”, as he’s often called, already lives in Cubs lore for his great pitching in 2016, including leading the league in ERA during the regular season and pitching great in the postseason for the World Champions. Yet despite the fact that Hendricks continues to pitch well for the Cubs year after year, he still seems to be overlooked, especially nationally, but even still among some Cubs fans.
Yet maybe that’s the way he likes it. Hendricks has never been one to draw attention to himself on the field or show a lot of emotion. He just takes the ball every fifth day and, in most cases, gives you a good outing. He doesn’t blow batters away, but he knows how to pitch. In an era where velocity has become more important than ever, Hendricks goes against the grain and pitches smartly.
So, what can we expect from Kyle Hendricks in 2020? Probably more of the same as we’ve seen over the past few years. Hopefully he can improve his numbers on the road, but other than that Hendricks has become a reliable pitcher who handles himself the right way. That’s something all Chicago Cubs fans can get excited about.