Last night, Kyle Hendricks came dangerously close to throwing the first no-hitter of his young (but increasingly exciting) career, ultimately finishing just short of history.
A 29-year-old rookie outfielder, Jeremy Hazelbaker, played the part of spoiler, leading off the bottom of the ninth inning with a solo shot to right field (on an 0-2 count, no less) for the first hit and run of the game. After that, Hendricks’ night was finished, there were some umpire theatrics, and Aroldis Chapman came in to close things out.
Hendricks’ final line for the evening read: 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 1H, 2BB, 7Ks, and even though he didn’t quite complete the game, it took him only 96 pitches to get that far.
Too often, the loss of a no-hitter overshadows what was otherwise a completely brilliant performance – and we can’t allow that. Kyle Hendricks was an absolute beast last night and continued to be one of the most effective and dominant pitchers in all of baseball against a Cardinals team clawing for a spot in the postseason. Let’s dive a little deeper into his start, and see where he stands for the season.
Although there were some really great, no-hitter saving defensive gems last night, we’ll get to those later today. For now, let’s make this all about the man of the hour, and relive Hendricks’ night on the mound:
You can listen to Hendricks discuss his night in a postgame interview with Len and JD here, but in short, Hendricks had good command of all of his pitches, and was able to execute his game plan perfectly with Miguel Montero. He admits to getting lucky on “4 or 5” mistakes, but beyond that he felt good throughout the night.
After digging deeper into the start at Brooks Baseball, Hendricks’ comments are validated. He mixed in four pitches last night – fastball, sinker/two-seamer, changeup, curveball – throwing each pitch at least ten times over the course of the evening. Of the 64 strikes he threw in total (of 96 pitches), 14 came on swings and misses, with his changeup (expectedly) delivering most of the damage. Hendricks never threw more than 15 pitches in a single inning and had a real shot and finishing the no-hitter in under 100 pitches.
As for the impact on his season statistics, well as you can imagine, he’s looking even better than ever.
Although his ERA dipped under 2.00 for a single fleeting moment last night, Hazelbaker’s home run brought it back north of the arbitrary, but awesome, line. Here’s where Hendricks is at overall, compared to the other qualified starters in baseball (NL Rank, MLB Rank):
- ERA: 2.03 – (1st, 1st)
- FIP: 3.38 – (8th, 11th)
- xFIP: 3.69 – (10th, 19th)
- K-rate: 22.6% – (12th, 27th)
- BB-rate: 6.4% – (13th, 30th)
- AVG: .197 (3rd, 3rd)
- WAR: 3.7 (7th, 14th)
By just about every measure (including his strikeout rate), Kyle Hendricks ranks as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and certainly the National League. I’m not sure he’s the best choice for the NL Cy Young award just yet, but there is no reason he can’t be in the conversation.
And, just to be clear, Hendricks has thrown 173.0 innings this season, which ranks 10th in the National League and 24th in all of baseball – and he’s done so in one to three fewer starts than anyone above him on the list. In fact, he has the highest inning total for anyone with 28 starts on the season.
In addition to the statistics above, Hendricks continues to have the best (highest) soft contact rate in all of baseball at 25.6%, and the third best (lowest) hard contact rate in baseball at 25.2%.
Any notion that Hendricks’ production isn’t quite on the same level as the best in the NL should probably now be dispelled. In addition to dominating in his way (limiting walks and hard contact, inducing plenty of soft contact), he’s also shown the ability to strike plenty of batters out (12th in the NL), and do it over a very large number of innings (10th in the NL). He’s not just one of the best pitchers on the Cubs, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Hopefully, he can ride that success right into the playoffs. And if he wins an award along the way, all the better.