Kyle Hendricks Rated MLB’s Best Command Pitcher
Eno Sarris, The Athletic’s resident baseball stats genius, collaborated with a talented group of smart people to develop a new metric called “Command+.” This statistic was inspired by Sarris’s interactions with the game’s best starters and it’s special because it is both reliable and permits fans to understand which pitchers throw to their intended zone.
Command, as Sarris describes, is simply another word for intent. We want Cubs pitchers to throw where Willson Contreras is setting up, right? Lord knows it’s no one wants him to have to frame those pitches back over the plate. So it would be nice to have a quick tool to figure out if they are successfully throwing to their intended zone. We might be able to do that in the near future with Command+.
The total explanation of Command+, along with more comprehensive leaderboards, can be read on The Athletic. A subscription is required, but I strongly encourage you to consider getting one through us if you haven’t already.
But as a teaser for the complete post, Kyle Hendricks leads MLB in this new Command+ metric. The Professor is 20 percentage points better than league average and shares the leaderboard with several other pitchers whose presence there is not surprising.
What’s even crazier to me is that Hendricks’ command might not even in mid-season form yet. Take, for example, the below heatmaps that shows the his sinker location. Notice how his 2018 location is more medial compared to 2017 and especially 2016. No wonder Hendricks had the best season of his career in 2016; he was hammering the heck out of that low-outside corner with consistency.
Many numbers support Hendricks’ impressive ability to command pitches, but this new metric builds on previous methods and translates intuitive knowledge to numbers. And even though Hendricks currently leads MLB in Command+, it’s possible that the righty hasn’t even shown his best command this season.