In anticipation of his Game 2 start in the NLDS, I took a statistical and narrative look back through the Cy Young Caliber season of Kyle Hendricks in 2016.
In that process, we found (among other things) that the 2016 version of Hendricks performed significantly better the second and third time through the order than he had previously in his career – one of his biggest issues.
This allowed him to last longer into games and post the kind of overall numbers worthy of a Cy Young Award winner.
If you enjoyed that article, or have a particular interest in understanding how Kyle Hendricks took such an enormous leap forward in 2016, I have the article for you … or rather, Sahadev Sharma does at The Athletic: The true story of how Kyle Hendricks became a Cy Young candidate.
What I found most interesting about Sharma’s piece is the difference between the perception of Hendricks and the reality of almost all starting pitchers. In general, Hendricks is considered to be an extremely cerebral, statistically-driven pitcher who uses an unusual amount of prep work to attack hitters in precise, pre-determined ways. To an extent, that’s true – in fact, it has to be somewhat true, given his lack of overpowering stuff.
That said, Hendricks is still a good ‘ole fashioned baseball player, and sometimes you need to hear it from a fellow/former player before you make a change.
Such was the case for the Cubs and Hendricks, after Hendricks was resistant to a couple of changes suggested by catching coach Mike Borzello. Borzello wanted Hendricks to utilize his four-seam fastball and curveball a bit more often, but Hendricks lacked confidence in those infrequently used pitches. It took former Cubs pitcher (turned scout) Tommy Hottovy for Hendricks to listen. Together, Hottovy and Borzello made a compelling case (using a blend of stats and scouting) and it was enough to convince Hendricks. The way Borzello puts it though, it would have been enough to convince anyone. “It was even more alarming than I thought it was with regards to how easy it was to figure him out and what he was trying to do and how he was trying to get people out,” Borzello told Sharma.
To see what precisely Hendricks changed from there and how it worked out for him, head over to the Athletic and read Sharma’s piece. There’s much more in there and I suspect you will enjoy it quite a bit.