You might not like all the Maddux comps, but they’re difficult to avoid when Kyle Hendricks goes out and almost throws one. A Maddux, that is. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with that particular statistical anomaly, it’s when a pitcher logs a complete-game shutout while throwing fewer than 100 pitches. The Cubs’ fifth starter was only four throws and a dropped third strike away from doing just that Saturday afternoon against the overmatched Phillies.
If there’s a knock on Hendricks, it’s that he nibbles at the strikes zone and doesn’t have the velocity to make up for mistakes. That’s a pretty flimsy critique, though, particularly when you see what he can do when he’s truly on. That’s what the Phillies were up against and they really stood no chance, logging five hits on the afternoon, only two of which went for extra bases. The second of those, a leadoff double by Freddy Galvis to lead off the 9th, resulted in the only run scored against Hendricks.
Of his seven total strikeouts, four came from hitters flailing away at the change. Video from the game shows just how helpless the Phillies were against one of the best offspeed pitches going.
Wait, that’s a GIF from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Huh, coulda fooled me. Okay, here’s a real highlight reel from the game that gives you a look at just how good Hendricks was.
Oddly enough, the lone tally against him came as the result of Hendricks’ devastatingly effective changeup. With Galvis on third after a ground-out had pushed him over, Ryan Howard struck out on a change that absolutely died and had to be blocked by Miguel Montero. Howard busted down the line to first and Montero looked the lead runner back before firing to Anthony Rizzo for the out. Galvis then scampered home and beat the relay from Rizzo.
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention that Hendricks was able to rack up three called strikeouts, all on sinkers. The change gets most of the publicity, but Hendricks’ fastball actually ranks 21st in baseball with 5.1 runs saved. The change ranks 5th with 5.0 runs saved, and the cutter and curve have both saved runs as well. When he’s hitting his spots with the fastball/change combo, he’s nigh unhittable.
That Kyle Hendricks resides at the bottom of the Cubs’ starting staff is testament to just how good the rotation is. That Hendricks is only 26 years old and still honing his craft is testament to just how much better they can be. I’m not naive enough to think that a single game will quiet the calls for the Cubs to go out and trade for another number two or three-type starter, or that they’ll continue to give this particular string-bean slinger short shrift. But if Hendricks puts up a few more performances like this, people might start to realize the additional mid-rotation pitcher they covet is already here.