Got a long train ride today? A meeting that you have to attend, even though it’s not really related to your department? A class that you’re in for just the credit hours?
We’ve got a must-read to help you pass the time:
When Kyle Hendricks used the word "excited" to decribe how he feels about progress he's made on a grip change, I figured it was something to pay attention to… https://t.co/HEr9q0fKeg
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 5, 2018
At The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma writes about the evolving curveball of Kyle Hendricks, and how a new grip might unlock another level of potential for the Cubs’ #2 starter. (They have lots of #2 starters.)
In short, Hendricks changed the grip of his curveball back during his Cy Young-caliber 2016 season, from a four-seam grip to a two-seam grip, in an effort to build up some increased confidence in a pitch he wasn’t using as often as he probably should’ve been. But the change didn’t do much to improve the pitch, and he really didn’t use it much more often than he had been previously. He’s obviously had plenty of success over the last two seasons anyway, but his reluctance to use a quality curveball in deeper counts is a pretty clear area for improvement.
He just wasn’t happy with how it was looking: “A lot of times when I try and spin it, it’ll hump, it’ll come up out of my hand instead of having the presentation of a fastball or a changeup.” Until now.
After working with new Pitch Coach Jim Hickey, the two started discussing the particular grip he was using and if it wasn’t time for another change. Together, they decided to switch to the “spike grip,” which is something used by Mike Montgomery, who has one of the best spin rates and curveballs in baseball. And so far, it’s really working for Hendricks.
“It’s the best rotation and it doesn’t pop out of my hand,” Hendricks said. “Just by spiking it alone has helped me.”
Hickey explains that the spike grip isn’t a cure-all, but if you can make it work (locating it well), you should be able create a tighter spin. Given that Hendricks’ command is among his best qualities, I’d say he should be able to get it where it needs to be.
To be sure, Hendricks is still not happy with where the pitch is at just yet, but he’s apparently using his bullpen sessions to work on it more than normal (throwing about 10 extra curveballs in Friday’s session). The goal is to have something greater than a “get-me-over” curve, and if I know anything about Hendricks, I think he’ll have one by the time the regular season starts.
According to Pitch Info, Hendricks’ curveball was at its worst last season (the first time it was a negative value pitch), so there’s plenty of room for improvement on that front. And if he can figure out how to make that pitch a legitimate threat like his changeup, then he might be ready for another run at the top of the ERA leaderboard in 2018.
But don’t take my word for it, head over to The Athletic, and catch much more from Jim Hickey, Kyle Hendricks, and Sahadev Sharma. If it’s possible, they’ll get you even more excited about Hendricks’ 2018 season than you already are.