The Chicago Cubs rotation lost some serious firepower with Yu Darvish departing via trade. Nobody is going to light up the radar guns or flash the high heat, but the team still has two premier finesse arms in the form of Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies. Together, these two could bring out the best in each other and the Cubs seem to think so too.
Davies and Hendricks were given lockers next to each other at spring training, seemingly because of their similar style of pitching and similar mindset. After last year, they even share a similar pitching repertoire. In 2020, both relied mostly on a sinker as their primary pitch with a changeup, though Hendricks got more use out of his tertiary pitches than Davies.
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Davies even mentioned Hendricks as one of the main pitchers he’d watch footage of when he pitched in Milwaukee. Now that the two are together on the Cubs, this is a huge opportunity for him to learn and grow as a pitcher by getting to pick the brain of The Professor himself.
Cubs: Zach Davies could learn a lot by coordinating with Kyle Hendricks
One area that Davies improved on in 2020 was attacking hitters as he dropped his walk rate down to 6.9 percent, but Hendricks has been even better with three straight years in the top ten percent of all players in walks. Hendricks, not surprisingly, also tends to pitch in the zone more often than outside the box. Given the two are planning to talk game plans and strategies for attacking hitters, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Davies become a bit more aggressive in the zone and try to limit walks even further.
Where Davies could also use help is in finding ways to limit hard contact. Last year, despite a career best performance, he rated poorly in hard contact and barrel percentage. Perhaps he can work on his curveball with Hendricks to give hitters a different look since he currently relies on the sinker-change-up combination for over 83 percent of his pitches. He could take a page from Hendricks’ book by diversifying his pitch mix more while still relying on that devastating change-up to put hitters away.
Speaking of change-up usage, this is a spot where Hendricks could also pick up a few tricks from his fellow finesse hurler. Davies’ change was rated baseball’s fourth most valuable pitch type in 2020 per Statcast and finished tied for sixth over the past two seasons. Hendricks also employs a very effective changeup, garnering a .241 wOBA and .218 xwOBA in 2020, but it could benefit both to share notes on the pitch and how to employ it.
Of course, Davies himself has said that there are more differences between the two than immediately visible, but both will have plenty of opportunities to bounce ideas off one another in a full 162 game season. It’s hard to find two pitchers closer to each other in style and work ethic than Davies and Hendricks and putting them together on the Cubs is a match made in heaven.