As the Cubs approach the postseason, there are only a few questions left about the team. Most importantly, who is the team’s third best starting pitcher?
If the Cubs are able to advance through the Wild Card game they will need to shore up their rotation. After starts from Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, there is seemingly a big question mark.
Advanced metrics, however, would paint a much different picture. As Dave Cameron at FanGraphs writes, Kyle Hendricks has already earned the spot as the third pitcher in the rotation with his play over the last few months.
#Cubs 20 shutout wins this season sorted by the pitchers who started them:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 29, 2015
After an encouraging start to his career last season, batters seemed to figure him out earlier this season. However, as any young player should as their career advances, Hendricks adjusted to the change.
Cameron notes that much of the improvement comes from an increased use of the change-up.
Certainly, you don’t want to overreact to recent data, and it’s always better to keep an eye on the bigger picture. But even in the big picture, Kyle Hendricks has shown himself to be an above average big league starter, and more recently, he’s started making guys swing and miss with some regularity. By dumping his cutter and focusing more on his very good change-up, Hendricks may be finding a way to go from a pitch-to-contact strike-thrower into being a guy who can really take over a game when need be.
On Monday night, in Hendricks most recent start, the Cubs starter went six innings of scoreless baseball. He kept the AL Central champion Royals to only two hits with nine strikeouts.
Hendricks isn’t yet a top-end starter and can’t be counted on to win a game by himself. But as the Cubs hope to find a staff that can compliment their young offense, Hendricks may be a strong option.