Kyle Hendricks Improving With Increased Strikeout Rate, Dynamic Change-up

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Kyle Hendricks Improving With Increased Strikeout Rate, Dynamic Change-up

Chicago Cubs

kyle hendricks cubs featureKyle Hendricks, who takes the mound today for the Cubs, has experienced the kind of roller coaster year one would expect out of a pitcher in his first full season in the majors.

He has failed to qualify for a quality start in 11 of his 15 starts, allowed four earned runs or more in six starts and has let up nine home runs in 84.2 innings

Yet, when he has been good, he has been really good.

It all seems to begin with an increase in Hendricks’ ability to miss bats, something that eluded him last year as he posted a 14.6 percent strikeout rate and 5.3 K/9.

Fifteen starts into the 2015 season, Hendricks has worked to get those numbers to climb to a 19.9 K% and a 7.3 K/9. These improvements could be seen as significant, as his 7.3 K/9 rate actually puts him slightly above the MLB average for starting pitchers, which is 7.28, meanwhile the median strikeout rate for starters is 18.9 percent.

Hendricks’ four quality starts have been full of whiffs, evidenced by a 25.5 percent strikeout rate (striking out 25 of 98 batters) in those starts.

More of those, please.

A key component in Hendricks’ improved strikeout rate is the swings-and-misses his change-up elicits.

How good has his change been? It resulted in 32 whiffs in June. Back in April, Hendricks had 25 total pitches that resulted in whiffs.

Hendricks, who throws his change-up at a 17.9 percent clip, has thrown 230 change-ups this year, per Fifty-five (or 23.9 percent of change-ups thrown) have resulted in a swing-and-miss.

And that number has climbed as the season has progressed.

In May, 26.8 percent (15 of 56) of Hendricks’ change-ups resulted in whiffs. Success continued in June as the percentage of whiffs on his change rose to 30.5 percent (32 of 105).

Back in April, the whiff rate on Hendricks’ change-up was a lowly 11.6 percent, as only 8 of 69 change-ups resulted in a swing-and-miss.

Seeing Hendricks have this much success missing bats is encouraging and intriguing, considering his arsenal is void of fastball velocity and the kind of breaking stuff that elicit high strikeout rates.

Twenty-eight starts into his big league career, Hendricks is starting to find some progression to the mean in regard to strikeout numbers, all while all while keeping his walk rate steady at a minuscule 4.6 percent and BB/9 in the 1.7 range.

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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.