As I was thinking about Kyle Hendricks’ excellent performance last night against the Indians, I was flashing on how perfectly he was executing his standard changeup to lefties.
The pitch tunnels perfectly with his sinker to that down-and-away corner of the strike zone, but unlike the sinker, it comes in 10ish mph slower, and darts much further away and much further down. If you don’t diagnose the pitch out of his hand – which is nearly impossible given how perfectly Hendricks executes the pitch combo – you really don’t have a chance. You can’t hit the changeup well, and you can’t lay off because if it’s the sinker it might be a strike. Heck, sometimes he okey-dokes you and puts the changeup in the zone to just get a called strike.
Last night, Hendricks threw the changeup a whopping 41 times out of 90 pitches, and got a comical 9 whiffs and 9 called strikes. Nearly HALF the time he threw the pitch, it was a swinging strike or a called strike. That’s just absurd.
I realized upon reflection that the reason I had so much opportunity to reflect on that pitch, in particular, is because the Indians were absolutely stacked with lefties. The first four batters in their lineup are switch-hitters, then there was the sole righty (Franmil Reyes), and then a few lefties and another switch hitter. Hendricks was facing almost exclusively lefties last night, and yet, with him, you really don’t even think of it. Because of that beautiful changeup.
Oh, but not to go without mention: Hendricks also had his new-and-improved curveball working last night. He threw it 14 times (again, out of 90 pitches – that’s a lotta curveballs for him), netting 2 whiffs and 4 called strikes, with only two weakly put balls in play coming off of it.
Watch the highlights of his performance here, and I’m saying, seeing the two curveball whiffs in here is going to give you the vapors:
Tell us what you learned today. pic.twitter.com/2pw9ZqPAIx
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2020
After last night’s outing, Kyle Hendricks has moved his ERA down to 3.08 and his FIP to 2.27 (7th best in MLB). He’s also thrown the third most innings of any starter (26.1), which, combined with his performance, helps explain the 1.0 fWAR – second most in MLB and tied for 1st in the National League. What an unbelievable start to his season.