Kyle Hendricks’ fastball velocity has hovered between 86-88 mph over the last three years, but the steady righty was throwing 88-89 mph darts against Joe Maddon’s Angels in his most recent start. More than just bringing a little more heat at this very early stage of spring, he was also pinpointing his pitches on the black as if he were already in playoff mode.
Kyle Hendricks was really sharp today. The ESPN gun had him at 88-89 a lot. FanGraphs has him averaging 85.8, 86.9, 86.9 on the fastball the last 3 years (87.8-88.3 in 2014-16).
Here he is painting at 89 mph for the strikeout: pic.twitter.com/uXIHNMltMT
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) March 2, 2020
I’ve covered velocity as a function of Hendricks’ mechanics a lot here at Cubs Insider over the past three years. Like, a lot a lot. One of the biggest predictors of his velo has been vertical release point and release extension. I’ve found that when Hendricks gets more extension, his release point drops concomitantly — that’s a fancy word for in conjunction — and his velocity peaks as a result.
Hendricks told Cubs Insider contributor emeritus Ryan Davis that his extension and release point indeed affected his velocity. And no, CI was definitely not granted a credential. Davis was writing for The Sporting News at the time.
“When (my release point) goes lower my stride gets long with it too,” Hendricks said. “I just kind of get stuck and my arm’s not free coming through. And along with velocity, my stuff just isn’t the same. It comes out kind of flat and just runs on me instead of sink. I don’t get any depth on my changeup or my sinker, so I don’t get those kind of swings that I usually see.”
Hendricks’ uptick in velocity could be due to a few reasons. The first, and probably least popular, is that the radar reading on the ESPN broadcast were running hot. Second, perhaps Hendricks has been working on something with his mechanics. Third, it’s possible that his new training regimen has him throwing slightly harder.
Before we go too far with the speculation, though, it’s best to wait and see how fast Hendricks throws in his next few starts. After all, he was sitting around the mid 80’s during his first spring start. But if his velocity is indeed his 2016 range of 88-90 mph, go ahead and let your imagination make like baseball’s top prospect and Wander.