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Right-hander quietly goes about his business

NSR’s Kevin McCarthy takes a look at Kyle Hendricks’ first half of the season and why he’s not looking like a ‘fifth’ starter.

Kyle Hendricks is a fifth starter that’s pitching like an ace. His 2.61 ERA ranks eighth in the bigs. There are 25 pitching staffs in the league that don’t have a single starter with a mark that low.

Despite his handsome ERA and 1.04 WHIP, he’s not stealing headlines — it’s difficult to do so on a staff that features the reigning Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta and June’s pitcher of the month in Jon Lester — but he’s quietly having an All-star worthy season. 

“I don’t even consider him a fifth starter,” Joe Maddon said after the Cubs 10-4 win on Monday. “This guy’s just a good starting pitcher. It’s a wonderful, classic example of not having to throw 90-some miles an hour to be effective.”

Hendricks has become successful by painting the corners with tremendous command on all four of his pitches. He rarely touches 90 MPH with his sinker or his four-seam, but he’s able to work the low corners on lefties and righties to get hitters out. If pitchers had walk-up music for their trips to the mound, his would be “Down on the corner” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, obviously. 

His sinker has become his primary pitch this season, throwing it on nearly half his pitches and generating a ground ball roughly 60% of balls put in play. His change-up has become his go-to strike out pitch—he throws it on over a third of two-strike counts, producing a swing and miss over a quarter of the time. 

Though his strikeout numbers are relatively good (7.9 per 9 innings pitched), that’s certainly not a big part of his game. Just like real-estate, it’s about three things for Hendricks: location, location, location. Some call him a poor man’s Greg Maddux—whatever that even means, because what’s a poor-version of a first-ballot hall of fame pitcher with 355 career wins and 3,371 strikeouts? That being said, I understand the thought process: control guys who make a living without blow-you-away stuff. 

Speaking of money, Hendricks is out-performing his contract (1-year, $541,000), He’s likely the best bargain in baseball right now. It’s certainly difficult to argue that he’s not the best per-dollar pitcher in the game. 

But, for now, he’ll continue to lay low on the radar, just like his fastball. Considering his calm composure on the hill and soft-spoken tone at the post-game podium, he likely has no issue with that. 

When All-star lineups were released yesterday, maybe Lester and Arrieta shouldn’t have been the only Cubs pitchers whose names were on the list. 

Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com 

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