When I was watching Kyle Hendricks’ most recent start against the Rockies, I did a double-take on a few of his “fastballs.” I swore his four-seamers weren’t tailing like before, and even Gameday classified nine of them as cutters, which eventually reverted back to four-seamers once corrected by Brooks Baseball.
Indeed, Hendricks’ fastballs have looked like mini cutters recently, and this is new trend for last year’s Cy Young candidate makes me a little excited. Whereas Hendricks threw four-seamers with about two inches of tailing action throughout the last two seasons, he’s throwing them in a way that tricks Gameday into thinking the pitches are cutters.
In fact, his four-seam movement has resembled that of Carl Edwards Jr. The lanky Cubs reliever’s fastball averages around half an inch — and up to almost three inches — of cutting movement, and Hendricks has now thrown several four-seamers in that same range.
And guess what: Hendricks’ four-seamer in May has garnered a 12.50 percent swinging strike rate, which is better than the 8.95 percent it generated last year. Check out the strikeout he recorded by throwing an 88.5 mph fastball with 1.5 inches of cutting movement. As a point of emphasis, I want you to remember that Edwards Jr.’s offering averages half an inch of movement. The pitch below is basically a slower variant of Edwards Jr.
The verdict is still out on whether this is a sustainable change. Perhaps Hendricks’ mini cutter is unintentional, but I have a hard time believing that is the case because, after all, the Cubs’ command specialist is deliberate in almost everything he does. And so, I’m led to believe that we might be seeing a new fastball from Hendricks, one that looks like a Carl Edwards Jr. four-seamer now and again.
Would you really be that surprised if Hendricks added this new tool to his arsenal? Didn’t think so.