He Didn’t Get the W Saturday, but Kyle Hendricks is Going to be Just Fine
Baseball can be a game of overreactions at times. Kris Bryant goes 0-4 with three strikeouts in his debut and all of the sudden he sucks. Jon Lester airmails a pick-off throw to first base and he has the yips. Kyle Hendricks misses his spots a few times in his first game of the season (at Coors Field, no less) and he’s being exposed. No matter how hard many of us try to stay level-headed, sometimes it’s just too difficult to keep our true colors from leaking out.
We’re impatient. Not only do we want it, but we want it right now. It’s not good enough to have Bryant and Lester, but we need them to be superstars every time they step on the field. We know Hendricks has amazing control, but we need to see it with every pitch or we think it might have disappeared. Of course, this isn’t how baseball works.
We aren’t always on top of our game, either. I sometimes write bad articles (okay, I probably should say that I sometimes write good ones). We get frustrated and yell at loved ones. Some drive to the end of their street, park, and cry while listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart and eating cheeseburgers, or so I’ve heard. It happens to all of us at times.
When Hendricks gave up the two-run homer into the teeth of the wind in left field to Matt Kemp in the first inning, many thought that the guy we saw in 13 starts last season was gone. He struggled in Colorado, going 4.1 innings with eight hits and five earned runs. And after a troublesome first inning that saw an error, a hit, and the massive two-run bomb, there was a lot of angst floating around Cubs Twitter over their fifth starter.
But eventually, once Hendricks was pulled for pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia, we were able to glance down at his line for the day and see that our guy never actually was gone. Following the homer by Kemp, Hendricks dropped a line of six innings, one hit, no runs, no walks, and eight strikeouts. At one point during that stretch, he retired 14 consecutive batters. The overall line is still extremely good, qualifying him for a quality start and his first win of the season (had the ‘pen not collapsed late).
Hendricks is sporting a 6.10 ERA, but his 2.39 FIP and 2.59 xFIP tell the story of the kind of pitcher he is. As some might say, he simply got “BABIP’d to death” in Colorado, with guys batting .471 on balls in play in that game. He had it under control in his second start and he kept the Cubs in the game against the Padres Tyson Ross, who was striking out Cubs batters when he wasn’t busy walking Kris Bryant. Keeping them in the game is really all that you can ask of the guy that you identify as your fourth or fifth man in the rotation.
Lost in the conversation on Hendricks is that, while some say he can’t keep up the pace at which he allows contact and gets outs, I would say that he probably won’t have to. He certainly didn’t strike out a high rate of guys in his first season in the Major Leagues, with a 5.27 K/9 rate. But after the small sample size of two starts in 2015, his K/9 rate sits at 9.58. Do I expect that this should be the norm for him? No, probably not. However, he did strike out 8.50 batters per 9 last year in his 17 starts at Triple A, which leads me to believe that there is still room for improvement for him.
With the new era of Cubs baseball that we’re exploding into this season, with a jumbotron, renovation construction, new $155 million pitchers, and Messiah-prospects, it’s easy to understand why Cubs fans might get a little jacked up. Emotions are high at the moment, especially with the 6-4 start and the flirtation with first-place in the division.
When something looks too good to be true or like it’s falling apart beyond what you expected, try to take a deep breath and count to four. And if it’s just too overwhelming, just go for a drive with your favorite Bonnie Tyler CD.
Not that I do that.