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Player Profile: Kyle Hendricks

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The mixed bag of tricks that is Kyle Hendricks.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014 Kyle Hendricks was a 24-year-old young lad pitching out of Dartmouth.  He finished 7 of his 13 games started victorious, had a 2.46 ERA, and a 4.9% HR/FB.  In 2015 he entered the rotation as a grizzled vet in the eyes of fantasy owners.  His peripherals weren't sexy in the year prior, striking out only 5.27 per 9, but walked a paltry 1.68, and limited hitters to a 4.9% HR/FB rate.

He began 2015 as a player with a mixed bag of tricks.  Most fantasy owners are not interested in arms that lack the capability to rack up strikeouts, so Hendricks was more or less ignored on draft day with an ESPN average draft position of 260 aka undrafted.

However, in 2015 he came out with an altered arsenal.  He was throwing his pitches harder, and was relying more heavily on his sinker, upping its usage from 53% to 60%.  With this pitch being the headliner to his arsenal, he was inducing 58% groundballs.  This was his pitch to get out of all jams, and to induce weak contact to try and eat up more innings.  As you can see, the sinker did just what the doctor ordered.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

His other offerings were all much better swing and miss pitches.  His second most frequently used pitch was his change up which batters only made contact with 61.5% of the time.  To put that into perspective is hard, but imagine how filthy Clayton Kershaw's curveball is.  That pitch is regarded as one of the best in baseball, and it generates 60.1% contact.  A visual of the whiffs his change up generated look like this.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

This was a nasty offering.  Batters had a .466 OPS against the pitch, good for a 34 wRC+.

His curve was a more sparingly used pitch, only thrown 201 times last year, but also kept batters honest.  This pitch had good results resulting in a .174/.191/.304 (.496 OPS, 43 wRC+) slash line.  While I do not have info on all curveball data from the league, I thought it was interesting to see that his generates 21.4% infield fly balls, which seemed high from what I've read about other pitchers outcomes, and was well above the overall league average of IFFB%.

But he did have his warts, his splits vs lefties are the main concern.

Season

Handedness

TBF

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

HBP

SO

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

2015

vs L

333

81

19

2

13

23

3

71

0.264

0.325

0.472

0.797

2015

vs R

406

85

17

1

4

20

5

96

0.223

0.273

0.307

0.580

So we know he is mowing down righties, that doesn't really require a breakdown.  But why are all the lefties in the league tuning him up at an almost all star level?   Well first of all, he has no fastball to pitch off of against them.

Pitch Type

Count

AB

K

BB

1B

2B

3B

HR

BAA

SLG

ISO

BABIP

Fourseam

138

24

9

5

5

2

1

1

0.375

0.667

0.292

0.571

Sinker

692

163

28

14

27

12

0

9

0.295

0.534

0.239

0.310

Change

308

99

37

2

12

2

1

4

0.192

0.354

0.162

0.259

Curve

100

25

2

0

3

2

0

1

0.240

0.440

0.200

0.227

Cutter

72

8

0

2

1

1

0

1

0.375

0.875

0.500

0.286

Its pretty difficult to pitch against all lefties with only off speed, and its generally accepting principal that a well located fastball is the best pitch in baseball.  Look at the line drives he was giving up against lefties with his hard stuff.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Since every hard pitch he threw in the strike zone was getting hit on a line, it doesn't help that they are also rarely missing when they swing at his hard stuff.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

With this info you can see that his hard stuff resulted in NINE whiffs in the zone all of last year. It is obvious that Hendricks needs to work on another offering that he can throw to lefties to set them up for his other pitches that are effective.  With a teammate like Jake Arrieta, who also relies heavily on a sinker, you'd hope that some of his technique could rub off.

A pitching coach/teammate/friend/god is going to have to help him tame lefties, because if he can limit them to merely league average production we could have a great pitcher on our hands.   Next season, I anticipate him accumulating more innings, and I'm hoping some improvement can be made.  If you look at the 105 pitchers who threw over 130 innings last year, only 8 of them managed to be in the top third in K/9, BB/9, and GB%, 7 of those names are fairly obvious aces when on the hill.

  • Jake Arrieta
  • Dallas Keuchel
  • Gerrit Cole
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Jon Lester
  • Carlos Carrasco
  • Michael Pineda

The 8th was Kyle Hendricks.  Add in that his ERA was worse than his FIP and xFIP, and you could be investing in a pitcher who is on the verge of his breakout season in 2016.  If he remains the same, he's likely going to be much cheaper than most mid rotation guys, and he'll have a much cheaper price tag.  Buy low now, this could be that great sleeper everyone searches for on an annual basis.