Reminisce back to the end of the Cubs’ 2015 season with me, specifically with respect to Jake Arrieta.
From the beginning of August on, Arrieta was so dominant that each of his starts began to become almost monotonous, an exercise in futility for the opposing team. He simply went through the motions and the results quickly followed. It was genuinely amazing to watch.
Now fast-forward to 2016 and Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks is not quite performing to the level that Arrieta did during the second half of last season (of course, no one else in history ever has), but his success is starting to feel eerily familiar, in that dominance is what we’ve come to expect. Night after night, start after start, Kyle Hendricks has dominated his opponents with elite command, weak contact, control, planning, and an 88 MPH fastball.
In fact, I’d argue that his starts have become especially fun to watch precisely because he’s succeeding in ways were not used to seeing.
But that undersells the larger point. Kyle Hendricks has been utterly dominant this season, to the point that anything else would be a surprise – and that’s not a distinction that’s earned easily.
Tuesday night (like most nights) was no exception:
When all was said and done, Hendricks threw seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and one walk against four strikeouts. And because the Pirates ran into two outs on the base paths (including a pickoff by Hendricks, himself), he faced just two batters over the minimum.
By the end of the night, Hendricks’ season slash line led with an MLB best 2.09 ERA, plus a 3.33 FIP and a 3.68 xFIP.
But that’s not all he accomplished:
With 3.6 fWAR, Kyle Hendricks is your Cub Pitching Leader in WAR.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 31, 2016
Kyle Hendricks no longer has just the best ERA on the Cubs staff, he has officially become the most productive pitcher (by fWAR) overall. In fact, his 3.6 fWAR is seventh best in the National League and 15th best in all of baseball. Given that fWAR is rooted in FIP (something we suspect undervalues Hendricks’ style of pitching quite a bit), this is tremendously impressive (Hendricks leads Arrieta by 0.5 bWAR, for example).
It has been one heck of a season for Hendricks, with every start looking as impressive as the last. There’s still a month to until the playoffs (although the Cubs Magic Number is already ticking down), but Hendricks should figure prominently into the plans for October.
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