Kyle Hendricks's Three-Part Season and Uncharacteristic Wildness Last Night

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Kyle Hendricks’s Three-Part Season and Uncharacteristic Wildness Last Night

Chicago Cubs

We’re so close to the end of the season that I am not gonna go TOO deep into trying to resolve whatever was plaguing Kyle Hendricks this year. That’s coming.

For today, though, I just wanted to acknowledge how rough he was last night, how rough he’s been lately, and how perfectly streaky his season has been. Meghan Montemurro sums up the last part rather well, actually:

If you are inclined to be hopeful about Hendricks righting the ship next year, here’s what that conversation would look like: “Well, yeah, Hendricks often has rough starts to the season (plus there was the new baseball this year to adjust to), and then he settles into being great. Which he did. But then the Trade Deadline happened and his whole team changed in a way he’s never had to deal with before, and he is also probably tiring out a bit after the pandemic season. That’s really all this struggle is lately – physical and mental stuff that won’t be applicable next year.”

Again, that’s how you WOULD talk yourself into being chill. And there might be at least some merit to it.

I understand why that’s harder in the moment when Hendricks is given a seven-run lead last night and can’t even pitch out of the 4th inning. More importantly, we would all be silly not to at least wonder whether there are natural decline risks here for a guy who requires PRISTINE mechanics and pitch-tunneling to succeed. Hendricks isn’t old, but he turns 32 in December. It’s gotta be on your radar that his ability to succeed the way he does won’t last forever.

As for last night, you can also do the optimistic/pessimistic thing if you want. On the one hand, it wasn’t like Hendricks was getting rocked. His quality of contact was overall surprisingly decent for a guy who got knocked out when he did (groundball rate was average, TONS of soft contact, almost no hard contact). The .400 BABIP and the sequencing of hits definitely had some bad luck in there. He even got nine whiffs out of 76 pitches, which is good!

On the OTHER hand, Hendricks was absolutely uncharacteristically wild. Just 43 of his 76 pitches were thrown for strikes, which is kind of a mind-boggling set of numbers for a guy like Hendricks. Not only will that put you in a spot to give up three walks, two HBPs, and net just one strikeout, it’s going to put batters in a position to target you differently in hitters’ counts. More specifically last night, it led to a total meltdown in the 4th inning. Hendricks wasn’t GREAT through the first three, but he was plenty solid. But he got especially wild in the 4th, which yielded both the HBPs and two of the walks, at which point you start to feel a little less willing to say “ah, it was all just bad sequencing luck.” Something was off in the 4th.

For his part, Hendricks said after the game that it’s not a fatigue or health issue, and is just a matter of making bad pitches. Maybe so. David Ross said, “It just looked like he couldn’t execute much. It looked like the command was off. It didn’t look like he trusted his stuff tonight. Very uncharacteristic of Kyle. … I didn’t see the guy I normally know: aggressive, fastball to both sides.”

Not a lot there to work with from an analytical perspective. I’m sure the Cubs, however, are digging in deeply, because when a guy gets as wild as Hendricks did last night, it’s a virtual lock that something detectable was off with his mechanics, release point, grip, etc. Your hope is that whatever it is, it’s related to everything that’s been troubling him the last month and a half, and is addressable in the offseason.

So I guess that’s the summation here for today. You could probably talk yourself into a variety of things about Hendricks’ season and Hendricks’ night, depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you want to be. To be honest I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I *REALLY* think about Hendricks’ season, how good or bad it really was, why it happened, and what it means for him in 2022.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.