Kyle Hendricks is having an unusual season when you consider how he’s getting his results.
On the one hand, his walk rate is trending down to a new career low (which is great!), while his K/BB ratio is heading up to an all-time high (also wonderful!). And more importantly, he’s earned both with compelling peripherals, such as the highest O-swing rate and highest whiff rate of his career. He’s also posting the lowest batting average against outside of his Cy Young finalist season, despite a perfectly average BABIP.
So, yeah, a lot of things are breaking right for him.
But on the other hand, he could probably be doing a LOT better in the results department. Hendricks’ ground ball rate has evaporated to a new career low this season, while both his line drive and fly ball rates have reached all-time highs (which isn’t always a recipe for success in this era of baseball, though working up with the two-seamer is by design). Indeed, those changes are happening just as he’s also begun to allow the hardest contact of his career, too, which is why his xSLG is middle-of-the-pack in baseball.
Fortunately, none of this has really derailed his season – a 3.39 ERA and 3.1 fWAR through 26 starts makes you one of the top-30 hurlers in MLB – but it’s still a little frustrating to imagine what could be if he were able to blend the best of both worlds. I mean, we have seen him do it before.
But I’ve been digressing since the first word typed. The true purpose of this post is to point out just how awesome Hendricks was yesterday, and the almost insanely unbelievable streak we haven’t given enough notice:
Kyle Hendricks has walked two or fewer batters in 25 straight starts, the longest single-season streak by a Cub since 1968.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 3, 2019
Final Line: 6.0 IP, 3H, 1ER, 1BB, 7Ks
Yesterday, Kyle Hendricks wrapped up 6.0 neat innings against the Settle Mariners, who actually have one of the top-10 offenses in MLB, while recording an impressive 14 swings and misses. That’s good for a 17.3% swinging-strike rate for the day, which is well-above his 10.5% season-average, and the third highest rate he has posted in a start this year!
Hendricks wasn’t throwing particularly hard in this one (his fastball averaged under 87 MPH), But he was fooling the heck out of the Mariners. They swung at 36.4% of pitches out of the zone (Hendricks average: 33.8%) and made contact with just 65.2% of pitches in the zone (Hendricks average: 85.5%). Basically, the Mariners didn’t know when to swing, and even when they did, they whiffed.
And thanks to all the extra strikes, Hendricks walked just one batter over the course of the game, which brings us to the crazy streak.
You may have missed it in the Cubs tweet above, but Hendricks has now walked two or fewer batters in 25(!) straight starts. That’s the longest single-season streak by a Cub since 1968! And the one and only start that failed to meet the criteria this season was his first of the year … when he walked three.
So Hendricks may not be having as good of a season as he could have been, given the broader K/BB numbers, but even with regression in the batted ball department, the incredible lack of walks has helped keep him among the top-30 or so starting pitchers in MLB … again.
Another good Kyle Hendricks start.
— OBVIOUS SHIRTS® (@obvious_shirts) September 3, 2019