Stephen Strasburg, Not Kyle Hendricks, Wins NL Pitcher of the Month
The last time Kyle Hendricks took the mound, he completed a seven hit shutout against the Miami Marlins, continuing what had been an utterly dominant stretch of pitching here in 2016.
Afterwords, we took a deeper look at what that start did for his numbers and relative ranking throughout the league (so check it out, if you missed it), but I’ll let his current slash line do the talking : 2.22 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 3.74 xFIP.
Indeed, Kyle Hendricks ERA for the season is a dazzling 2.22, but in July, it’s an even better 1.07 ERA. Despite those sparkling numbers, however, Kyle Hendricks was not awarded NL Pitcher of the Month for July. Instead, the award went to Stephen Strasburg:
.@JustinVerlander reasserts #AceStatus, wins AL Pitcher of the Month for July; Stephen Strasburg claims NL award. pic.twitter.com/827oGDXN7z
— MLB (@MLB) August 3, 2016
Strasburg was undeniably good in July, but then again, so was Hendricks. It’s unfortunate, but Hendricks’ last start – that complete game shutout – actually came on August 1, missing July by a singular day. Had it come just a day sooner, I suspect Hendricks would have run away with the award. But because it didn’t, Strasburg took the ball for one more start in July than Hendricks did, inflating his counting stats (like strikeouts) in five games above what Hendricks would otherwise be capable of achieving in four.
Take a look at their compared statistics for the month of July here:
- Strasburg (34.2 IP): 2.08 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 3.86 xFIP; 28.2% K-rate, 9.2% BB-rate, .126 AVG
- Hendricks (25.1 IP): 1.07 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 4.01 xFIP; 19.8% K-rate, 6.9% BB-rate, .215 AVG
So, to be completely fair to Strasburg, he was quite clearly deserving of the award – at least, as much as Kyle Hendricks is/was. Posting a 2.08 ERA and a 28.2% strikeout rate over 34.2 innings is downright scary. He was good. End of thought.
That said, I can’t help but feel bummed when Hendricks (20) is clearly being dinged for not having the strikeouts that Strasburg (37) has. Obviously Hendricks struck out far fewer batters than Strasburg (even if Hendricks had another game he wouldn’t have caught Strasburg), but should that really matter this much?
Hendricks has him beat on results (ERA) and peripherals (FIP) even without the better strikeout rate – which is impressive considering how important strikeouts are to FIP. That’s partially because Hendricks walked far fewer batters than Strasburg, but also because we know that’s not Hendricks’ sole game.
When we took that deeper dive into Hendricks’ latest start we discussed his proclivity to induce weak contact (best in baseball) and ability to greatly limit hard contact (third best in baseball). That type of skill set will frequently allow Hendricks’s results to look better than his peripherals. When you combine that with low strikeout totals/rates, it’s not difficult to understand why people wouldn’t consider his performance as impressive … it’s just that they’d be wrong to do so.
Kyle Hendricks is an entirely different kind of pitcher than we’re used to seeing in this era, and most fans/pundits are not willing to accept that this 88-MPH-throwing, weak-contact-inducing, non-elite-strikeout-getting pitcher is one of the better ones in the league, but – at least in 2016 – he is. And just for laughs, if you include Hendricks August 1 start with his July stats, his ERA drops down to 0.79 ERA.
Somehow, right now, I feel like Kanye West stepping up on the stage, stealing a microphone out of Taylor Swift’s hands and saying, “Nah, Stephen Strasburg, you were great, but this award belongs to my boy, Kyle Hendricks,” and that is not what I’m going for. Instead, let’s just say that, while Strasburg deserves to win the award, Kyle Hendricks was probably also deserving.
And hey, he has already gotten off to a better start in August than anyone.