Those Hendricks Concerns Linger, Leiter and the Pen, Injuries, Bryant, Wisdom, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Those Hendricks Concerns Linger, Leiter and the Pen, Injuries, Bryant, Wisdom, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Congrats to the New York Mets on their combined no-hitter last night. Who is going to break it to them that the rules say they now have to lose 11 straight games?

•   For most of last season, there were reasons to worry about Kyle Hendricks – not just the performance week to week, but also the concerns that his style, which requires such utterly precise command, would eventually suffer as he aged and his ability to precisely repeat the mechanics faded (because he doesn’t have the velocity or stuff to create a larger margin for error). We saw it time and again: when the command was just a bit off and the fastballs were too often belt high (even if he was locating them well horizontally), he got smoked. Throw in an uptick in walks and a downtick in strikeouts, and 2021 Hendricks was a guy who was about 15% worse than league average by the results and the peripherals. It was simply the year he had. Question was: a one-off driven by correctible mechanical issues, or the start of a decline for a 31/32-year-old command/control pitcher?

•   Through five starts in 2022, I don’t think we can definitively say it’s 2021 all over again, but the rough starts have certainly had that same 2021 flavor, including last night:

•   The problems are not overly hard to see. What’s worth mulling is that Hendricks has had two TERRIBLE starts and three decent starts, and they have come exactly along home/road fault lines. We have long thought about Hendricks as a guy who was simply better at Wrigley Field than on the road, but last year – his really down year – he was actually significantly worse at Wrigley than on the road. That stood in stark contrast to the rest of his career, where, again, he was generally magnificent at Wrigley and merely solid on the road. It’s five games, so you can’t take much away from the script being flipped back to “normal” this year – and it’s not like it will matter if he pitches THIS poorly on the road – but it’s on my radar to track as a curiosity, if nothing else. Hendricks’ next start figures to be at home against the Dodgers.

•   Hendricks sees it all as a consistency problem (as in, when he executes correctly, he can still get great results (which I take as he does not see any of this as evidence of physical decline, for what that’s worth)):

•   Wallets, belts, bags, shower heads, glassware, and much more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   Apropos of the conversation earlier this week about the Cubs finally getting on board with the ‘Opener’ concept just in time for bullpens to shrink and make it infeasible, I found it very interesting that Mark Leiter Jr. was deployed last night as a pure reliever (and he once again looked very good in that kind of short burst). As I wrote, when bullpens are required to shrink to just eight pitchers in a month, you absolutely cannot have an opener in your rotation who can give you only two innings every five days. He would *have* to be available in relief at least once in the intervening days (and even then, I’m telling you, it’s going to be super dodgy – even for the Rays! – to pull off). Maybe the Cubs are testing it out?

•   As for Leiter, specifically, remember: he’s a guy who has a unique story and timeline that led to him being a now 31-year-old pitcher who still hasn’t fully established himself in the big leagues, AND who has never had more than a half season to really try being a reliever (and he changed his repertoire last year and dominated at Triple-A). The Cubs have a proven track record in making these kinds of conversions work, and if you just watch Leiter, it’s very easy to see how he’s got swing-and-miss stuff in short bursts. I like him for the bullpen even if he’s NOT opening (though it’s TBD if he’ll eventually be crowded out, since he does have a minor league option remaining).

•   Wisdom was about two feet away last night from being alone atop this list:

•   Kris Bryant has hit the Injured List for the Rockies (back issues) after a rough start to his Colorado career. There were always questions about how well he was going to age into his 30s, though I don’t think the projections would’ve had him falling off immediately after he turned 30, so we’ll see if he stabilizes a bit as he gets healthy and the season goes on. Either way, like I’ve said before: (1) good on Kris Bryant for getting that contract, and (2) that was such a bonkers deal.

•   Speaking of injuries, the league is going to be on the lookout for phantom injuries before Monday’s roster deadline:

•   Holy crap, Jorge Soler:

•   Have you see Jimmy Herget yet? If not, watch – he’s weird and fun:

•   Our local Miracle League starts up soon – The Little Girl has uniform pick-up today! – and it’s such a wonderful, wonderful thing. This makes me happy to see:

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.