kyle hendricks cubs feature

Have yourself a night, Mr. Hendricks.

On an evening that was otherwise stolen by rookie catcher Willson Contreras’ first big league hit (a two-run home run to right center field) in his first big league at bat, Kyle Hendricks delivered yet another brilliant performance.

Looking to complete the sweep against the rival Pittsburgh Pirates, Kyle Hendricks took the mound for the Chicago Cubs and did what he’s done many times this season: completely dominate his opponents.

His final line for the evening read 6.0 innings pitched, 1 earned run and 7 hits, but his 1.50 ERA wasn’t the most impressive part of the night. Instead, it was the 12 strikeouts (out of 18 outs) and zero walks against his 26 batters faced. The performance brought his season line to a fantastic 2.94 ERA/3.14 FIP/3.38 xFIP, making him already worth nearly 2.0 WAR before the half way point of the season.

The 12 strikeouts on the evening were the most in his career by 3 (he recorded 9 Ks in two previous outings from 2015), and are tied for the most by a Cubs pitcher this year (with Jake Arrieta recording 12 against the Diamondbacks a couple weeks ago). Which is all the more impressive, considering how good the Cubs’ starters have been this season.



It was also the tenth time in his career that he’s allowed no walks in a start of at least 6.0 innings pitched.

You can relive the highlights of his start here at Cubs.com.

But like I said, last night was but one of many brilliant starts this season for the young Cubs starter who is firmly on the rise. So let’s see where he ranks among other qualified starters throughout the league.

Kyle Hendricks 2016 (League Ranking):

  • ERA: 2.94 (T-21st w/ Chris Sale)
  • FIP: 3.14 (T-15th w/ Kenta Maeda)
  • xFIP: 3.38 (15th)
  • K-Rate: 22.8% (34th)
  • BB-Rate: 5.9% (T-29 w/ Drew Smyly, Collin McHugh, and David Price)
  • K/BB: 3.84 (30th)
  • GB Rate: 54.0% (10th)
  • IFFB Rate: 11.9% (27th)
  • Soft Hit Rate: 29.0% (2nd)
  • WAR: 1.9 (T-20th w/ Aaron Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann)



Kyle Hendricks is undoubtedly one of the top 30 pitchers in baseball right now, and you can probably make a case for the top 20. Most interestingly, to me, is his second best in baseball soft hit rate (just ahead of Max Scherzer). Although he’s dialed up the strikeouts lately, Hendricks’ ability to induce weak contact has been crucial to his emergence as one of the best pitchers in the league. As Jake Arrieta has shown us before, inducing weak contact is a great way to limit the damage and last longer into games.

But none of that is even among the most impressive improvements he’s made in 2016. That distinction lies with what was previously his biggest criticism: facing hitters multiple times in a single start.

In 2015, batters were hitting .324/.343/.471 from the 7th inning on against Hendricks. So far, in 2016, that slash line drops all the way down to .240/.240/.360. Moreover, when Hendricks took the mound the third time through the order in 2015, batters were hitting a scary .329/.374/.520. In 2016, it’s just .233/.288/.356. That would be downright dominant for the first time through an order for any pitcher. That Hendricks has made such a marked improvement in this area from year to year is really encouraging.



When you remember that Hendricks is just 26 years old, making just $541,000 this year, and is under team control through the 2020 season, you’ll immediately smile ear to ear. He might not have the stuff that we’re used to seeing for this sort of dominance, he is clearly getting the results and more importantly the peripherals suggestive of sustaining this success going forward.

The Cubs may yet acquire a young, impact starting pitcher with multiple years of control remaining, but don’t forget that they already have one at the back of their rotation.




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