Chicago Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks is still being undersold by baseball writers and analysts.
The Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks “The Professor” has racked up a 63-43 record with a 3.14 ERA and 132 ERA+ in six seasons with the team. He ranks 13th in fWAR since his first full year in 2015, per FanGraphs. Yet, Hendricks is not getting his just due.
The Athletic wrote a piece in which writers and insiders broke down starting pitchers into tiers. These included: “Aces,” “Applicants,” “No. 2s and 3s” and “Guys” (subscription required).
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Hendricks was ranked in the “No. 2s and 3s” tier. At first glance, that seems like a suitable ranking for the Dartmouth man. After all, he is hardly a lock to get the ball for Opening Day.
But upon closer examination, it is interesting to see some of the arms ranked in the “Applicants” tier above. Guys like German Marquez, Jose Berrios and Luis Castillo are just some of the names in said tier.
Marquez has a career 4.32 ERA in four years with the Colorado Rockies. Berrios has made consecutive All-Star teams, but some of his peripherals are very similar to Hendricks despite a higher strikeout rate. As for Castillo? He had a great year in 2019, but it was also just his second full season.
Granted, The Athletic stipulated the rankings took things such as “stuff” and “potential” into the equation. Indeed, it is stated at the beginning of the piece that some guys in the “No. 2s and 3s” could be considered “Applicants,” but they lack “upside.” Some guys also saw massive dispersion in terms of the votes they received.
Still, such a placement feels disrespectful to Hendricks. No, he is not a power arm. Averaging 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings is not going to dazzle fans or evaluators.
Yet, Hendricks is one of the most consistent and durable guys in baseball when he takes the bump.
The 30-year-old makes up for lack of velocity by mixing his pitches and inducing tons of soft contact. Hendricks has ranked in the top 10 percent in terms of average exit velocity in each of the past four years, per Baseball Savant. He ranked in the 97th percentile in 2019.
Moreover, there is reason to believe Hendricks does have more upside. He has cut his walk rate in each of the last two seasons, and the homer rate remained consistent previous year despite league-wide increases.
Hendricks has shown a growing willingness to throw the four-seam fastball up in the zone and change eye levels after peppering hitters with sinkers and a changeup he can move both ways. The curveball has also become a dependable out pitch.
Sure, the ERA title in 2016 might seem like an outlier. But that is still a discredit to Hendricks’ dependability as a guy who has had a sub-3.50 ERA in each of the last two seasons.
If Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage is any indication, Hendricks is already in midseason form.
Jon Lester is getting older. Jose Quintana’s injury means both Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills will have to carry their weight at the back end. As good as he was in the second half, Yu Darvish’s track record of injuries and inconsistency lends some skepticism there, as well.
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But Cubs fans can probably count on Hendricks to be effective, as usual. If only the rest of the baseball world gave him more credit.