Kyle Hendricks Has Been One of the Best Pitchers in Baseball Since the All-Star Break

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Kyle Hendricks Has Been One of the Best Pitchers in Baseball Since the All-Star Break

Chicago Cubs

What can we say? The rotation is locked the eff in right now, and Kyle Hendricks is not only no exception, he’s just about leading the way. And his season numbers have thanked him.

After last night’s stellar 8.2 IP performance, Hendricks has set himself up to throw more innings this year than he has in any other season, while topping the 3.0 WAR mark for the third time in his career. His ERA has also dripped down to a quietly excellent 3.58 ERA mark, while his 3.85 FIP is actually better than the mark he posted last season! It may have taken him a while to get to this point, but he’s inching ever-closer to the sort of full-season numbers that would’ve been perfectly acceptable at the start of the season.

Of course, when you nearly toss a complete game shutout at the end of a very dominant stretch of baseball, that tends to happen, doesn’t it?

In addition to a tiny 1.63 ERA over his last six starts, Hendricks has continued to amass a boatload of strikeouts with hardly any free passes given up in exchange. Seriously, it’s nuts: since his first start in July, Hendricks has struck out 84 batters in 91.1 IP and walked only 13. That’s good for an *elite* 6.46 K/BB ratio, and you just love to see that.

And by the way, since the beginning of July, Hendricks has a 2.96 ERA and a 2.76 FIP through 15 starts. He’s been VERY good.

As for last night, in particular, Hendricks recorded an impressive 18 (!) whiffs, good for a season-high 16.5% swinging strike rate. And unlike most nights for most hurlers, he wasn’t leaning on just one pitch. Hendricks’ fastball and changeup each registered 8 swings and misses last night, and fell in for strikes 74.2% and 81.1% of the time respectively.

But I guess, when they look like this, how could they not:

Hendricks’ performance can’t quite go without noting the sub-optimal quality of contact, though. Last night, Hendricks gave up too many fly balls, didn’t get enough grounders, and allowed way too much hard contact (50.0%). In that respect, it was a very un-Hendricks-like night. But at the same time, maybe not.

Hendricks is considered such a talented pitcher – partially – because of his in-game strategy. You see, he’s not only capable of identifying what’s working and what’s not *in the moment* (a useful, sometimes rare skill in its own right), but he’s also then able to make the necessary adjustments on the fly. That’s the difference between a good and great pitcher. If Hendricks noticed that he had the Diamondbacks swinging through pitches thanks to a combination of their aggressiveness and his stuff, why wouldn’t he keep trying to miss bats? After all, when your opponent is making contact with just 70.6% of pitches thrown in the zone (his second lowest (best) mark of the season), you sure as heck keep throwing them in the zone.

Now, I know Hendricks isn’t a threat to steal awards away from anyone this season, but he does now have the 28th most WAR among all qualified MLB starters, as well as the 29th best ERA and FIP this season. And if we’re talking just second-half numbers, well …

  • 3.08 ERA (26th)
  • 2.75 FIP (11th)
  • 2.1 WAR (9th)
  • 6.45 K/BB (10th)
  • 24.2 soft% (3rd)
  • 28.0 hard% (11th)

… we’re talking about a top-ten pitcher in all of baseball. Which, you know, Kyle Hendricks has frequently been for long stretches in his career.

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami