Cubs get a clunker from Kyle Hendricks as see-saw ride continues
By Jake Misener
One of the areas of focus for the Chicago Cubs front office this winter was a starting rotation that ranked at or near the bottom of the league in almost every statistical measure in 2021. Chicago added Wade Miley and Marcus Stroman to the returning mix of Kyle Hendricks, Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills and Justin Steele with hopes of improvement.
So far, neither Miley, Alzolay nor Mills have set foot on the mound this year and the results from Stroman, Steele and Hendricks have been mixed. For Hendricks, a former MLB ERA leader and Cy Young finalist, consistency has once again been lacking – and his start on Friday night in Milwaukee was a prime example of that.
In his fifth start of the year, Hendricks lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing six earned runs on a trio of home runs as the Brewers throttled the Cubs by an 11-1 final. The right-hander knows he needs to tighten things up moving forward – which goes without saying.
"“I feel like I am in a good spot,” he told MLB.com after the start. “When I’m doing the right things, the things I’ve been working on, it’s right. I see angle, I see bad swings. I’m off the end of the bat. But, when I’m not right, it’s just the inconsistency that’s bothering me right now.”"
Hendricks continues to miss his spots – especially with his sinker, the pitch he’s built his career on. He’s leaving it up in the zone and over the heart of the plate far too often and opponents are taking full advantage of it, evidenced by a .364 average against the pitch.
Another pitch that became a put-away option in recent years, the curve ball, is also not getting the job done. He’s thrown only 41 of them this season, but has allowed an .800 average on them. No matter where you’re looking right now, the overall picture isn’t great. Hendricks is allowing career-worst marks in the following categories:
- 16.7 degree average launch angle
- 43.4 percent sweet spot rate
- 40.8 percent hard-hit rate
- 10 percent walk rate
It’s been the same see-saw ride Hendricks took us all on in 2021 so far. He followed up 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Opening Day with a 3 2/3 inning start in which he served up a half-dozen tallies. After back-to-back starts where he allowed just two earned over 11 1/3 frames, he ran into trouble again Friday – serving up another six runs.
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For the Cubs to even be a .500 team, they’re going to need Hendricks to find some consistency. The rotation enters action Saturday 27th in the league in ERA – better than only the Pirates, Nationals and Reds. That’s just not going to get the job done.