Chicago Cubs hurler Kyle Hendricks has been flirting with greatness. In 2016 he came in third in National League Cy Young voting. He was ninth in 2020. So, what’s it going to take for him to finally get the nod in the Senior Circuit?
There’s a simple answer but the solution to get there isn’t that easy. You see, Hendricks is a case not so much of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as two Professors, Dr. Jekyll and his absent-minded alter ego.
Chicago Cubs: This year is a microcosm of the problem and the potential.
By May 9, after seven starts, Hendricks was 2-4 with a no decision. His ERA sat at 6.23 and his WHIP was a very un-ace-like 1.765. Few of his pitches were fooling anyone. In three of the seven starts he had gone three, four and 3 2/3 innings, respectively.
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Since May 9, though, the Professor has been, well, scholarly on the mound. He’s gone 10-0, posted a 2.48 ERA with a 1.078 WHIP. Looks like the Professor is back from sabbatical hell.
But we’ve seen this before. In fact, we’ve seen it just about every season since his near-Cy Young season in 2016. 2017, a slow start (4.09 ERA/1.200 WHIP) followed by a very good second half (2.19 ERA/1.179 WHIP). 2018, a 3.92 ERA/1.196 WHIP in the first half followed by a good second half (2.84 ERA/1.083 WHIP).
In 2019 the variance was smaller but not in the right direction, and 2020 I just toss because of the abbreviated schedule but Hendricks had a fantastic September that was preceded by a mixed bag in July and August.
Chicago Cubs: Is this who Kyle Hendricks really is?
Is it possible that in there somewhere is a Cy Young winner along the lines of a Jacob deGrom/Shane Bieber/Max Scherzer guy? No, probably not. Those are some special players who are likely, if not certainly, headed to Cooperstown.
But is there a Cy Young in there somewhere? Absolutely. In 2016 Hendricks posted a 2.13 ERA and 0.979 WHIP. He led MLB in ERA and led in host of other advanced pitching metrics.
Hendricks just won 10 in a row – making Cubs history – so is this the year? Extremely unlikely. Even with winning 10 in row and his ERA and WHIP way down from their peaks, there is no way Hendricks catches deGrom. His start was that bad and deGrom is pitching at a historic level.
Well, OK, maybe…there is one way. Hendricks has perhaps 14 more starts left in the season and if he won them all to go 26-4, and all the outrageous metrics he’d have to post to win 24 games in a row, which would tie Carl Hubbell’s 84-year-old record, yeah he wins the Cy Young.
That’s not happening. What could happen is the Professor comes out in a future season and posts another 2016 season. That could happen, and if he does that again he will win the Cy Young.