In just his third season in the major leagues right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks can present an argument that he was the best pitcher, not just on the Chicago Cubs in 2016, but in the National League. His season ERA of 2.13 (ERA+ of 188) led the league, and he pitched 190 innings en route to a 16-8 record. Overshadowed by in rotation featuring the likes of Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, the 26-year-old has also had an excellent postseason so far, posting a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 innings pitched over three games. His highlight thus far is in out-pitching Clayton Kershaw in the win that clinched the NLCS.
Pitch usage and trends: Hendricks rarely throws his four-seam fastball (3.0% of pitches), instead relying upon his sinker (45.2%) and changeup (26.9%). He also occasionally mixes in a curveball. Hendricks is not at all a hard thrower. His four-seam fastball averages just 90.2 mph – nearly 2.5 mph slower than the average right-handed pitcher’s. Also, his much more commonly used sinker is slower still, averaging 87.9 mph:
Hendricks emphasizes his cutter to left-handed batters, dialing back on its usage to right-handed batters in favor of his sinker. When ahead in the count, Hendricks is more likely to call upon his changeup and curve, and very rarely uses his curve when behind in the count (3.2% vs 9.1% when ahead):
Pitch value: Each of Hendricks’s five pitch types is better than league average, when considered by total bases per 100 pitches. His curve and cutter are particularly devastating, ranking among the best pitches in baseball. Only his rare four-seam fastball is much more likely than average to be a ball, reflecting his exceptional ability to locate pitches:
Pitch location: The charts below display the typical locations of Hendricks’s pitches. Many of his pitches demonstrate multiple hot-spots. For example, his sinker – when thrown to left-handed batters – could end up either on the upper inside corner or the bottom outside corner of the strike zone. His changeup to lefties precisely outlines the bottom edge of the strike zone – to right-handed batters it could end up as a strike just inside the outside bottom corner, or it could fall just below the outside corner. Or, a significant minority of the time, it could be inside and down. These pitches may be unpredictable to the batter, but they are clearly planned and precisely located by Hendricks: