This milestone marks Kyle Hendricks' longevity with the Chicago Cubs
Kyle Hendricks gets a lot of attention now for being the only remaining member of the 2016 World Series squad, but with his return from the IL for his first start of 2023, another impressive feat can now be added to his Cubs resume.
According to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, “The Professor” is now set to become just the 12th player in the team’s history to pitch in at least 10 seasons with the club:
Hendricks now joins a list filled with both Cubs legends and all-time fan favorites, but how does he compare to those that came before him?
Against the list, Hendricks ranks 5th in career ERA (3.46) right behind Fergie Jenkins (3.34) and 6th in FIP (3.80) behind Bob Rush (3.42) while having the lowest WAR (22.4) among the 12– but, he’s not too far away from catching up to the two closest to him there with Guy Bush (23.4) and the beloved Kerry Wood (23.9).
No surprise, but Greg Maddux leads the list from the live-ball era in all three of those statistics, something that just seems so fitting given Hendricks and his career-long comparisons to the original “Professor”. Over the course of his 23-year career, Maddux posted a 3.16 ERA by utilizing location as opposed to high velocity in the way that Hendricks has capitalized on over his career, especially during his 2016 season.
“He's kind of like the Greg Maddux of this generation, with his ability to sink the ball, cut the ball, and put him in spots where hitters are enticed to swing at it but you can't put the barrel on it,” Clayton Kershaw said during the 2016 NLCS, right around the time Hendricks had the game of his career in which he outpitched Kershaw in his 7.1 scoreless innings start in Game 6 to put the Cubs on his back en route to the pennant.
Hendricks, just 26 in 2016, led all of baseball with his 2.13 ERA, 5th in opponent average (.205), and 6th in HR/9 (0.71) while allowing just 25.8% hard contact and a .979 WHIP. Hendricks at 26 posed the most similar performance compared to Maddux at the same age, with Maddux posting a 2.16 ERA, a .206 opponent average, a .20 HR/9, and a 1.011 WHIP at 26 in 1992. There were still some staunch differences in those seasons, though, including Maddux recording a 2.58 FIP and 5.2 win probability added compared to Hendricks’ 3.20 FIP and 4.3 WPA. And of course, you have to mention that Maddux pitched 78 more innings than Hendricks did at the same age.
Obviously, Hendricks hasn’t matched Maddux’s career numbers, and quite frankly, he was never going to. It was unfair to ever put an expectation on Hendricks to fully replicate the success of Maddux because it’s something that you just cannot do. But honestly, it doesn’t matter too much– Hendricks can do whatever for the rest of his career, and he’ll still have a special spot in franchise history. I mean, that’s just what happens when you’re the guy that took the mound for Game 7.