whole season I have been in awe of what Kyle Hendricks has done, and he has
definitely become my favorite player to watch.
We are conditioned as Americans to root for the less athletic player,
the underdog, the Rocky Balboa. In a
league full of fireballers, it has stunned me how effective Hendricks has
been. He's a nerd, a Peyton Manning
type. A student of the game. I read the book Moneyball several times, and
the way Michael Lewis describes Scott Hatteberg is quite similar to how
reporters describe Hendricks. Always
watching film, always trying to get an edge on his opponent. This work ethic is what made him the Cubs
Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season.
Plus, there's more advanced scouting and video in the Majors for
Hendricks to drool over, giving him even more of an edge.
article written by a Sabermetric group a couple years ago asked the question:
"Can you really pitch to soft contact?" It's a hard question to answer, and since
around 1970 most pitchers ERA has been higher than their FIP's. Not Hendricks though, he's posted a 1.66 ERA
while his FIP sits at 3.54. Now this
isn't good news if you are expecting Kyle Hendricks to be an ace. News Flash: He's not an ace. Duh. But it is fantastic news for the back end of
our rotation. FIP is pretty much what a
pitchers ERA would be if not for luck.
And a good indicator of luck is BABIP.
Hendricks's BABIP is .232, way below league average. Is it luck, or is it skill? I'm here to argue that it's a little of both.
believe that Hendricks BABIP will almost always be below league average because
he gets soft contact a lot more than other pitchers. Now, will it always be .60-.70 below league
average? No way. But the way he pitches
to opponents weaknesses and says "go ahead and beat me with your
worst" reminds a lot of people of Maddux.
I know, I know.
Enough with the Maddux comparisons.
But I just have one more for you.
The reason people compare Greg Maddux to Kyle Hendricks
really isn't because of their "stuff" but rather their cerebral
approach to pitching. Maddux career
BABIP is .281, which is around .19 below league average. His career FIP was 3.26 and his career ERA
was 3.16. Like I've said before, since
1970 most starting pitchers ERA's are higher than their FIP's.
But starting pitchers in the 2000's who have ERA's that are
lower than their FIP's have two stats in common: High Left On Base% and low BABIP.
Maddux Career LOB%: 72.3%
Maddux Career BABIP: .281
If a pitchers ERA is lower than his FIP it is considered he
had some good luck here and there, but I think there is a reason certain
pitchers have better BABIP. It's because
they pitch to opponents weaknesses, they don't allow solid contact, or at least
try and shy away from it. They don't
need to ring up the K's, but just get 21 outs and hand the ball to their
Kyle Hendricks has been quite "lucky" you could
say. But I think it's a lot more than
luck. Another great cerebral pitcher,
Maddux, posted the same sort of numbers which helped create a lower ERA than
FIP. Hendricks has posted those same
sort of indicating numbers.
Hendricks LOB: 87.1%
Hendricks BABIP: .232
A couple other stats that I found had a lot of correlation
but weren't as much of a reliable tell:
Maddux GB%: 51%
Hendricks GB%: 50%
Maddux FB%: 27.5%
Hendricks FB%: 30.3%
I really like these stats because its known around the
league that when the ball is hit on the ground players OBP is .232 and their
wOBA is .213. Keeping the ball on the
ground is a very good thing for a pitcher.
Kyle Hendricks has nerded his fastball/change and below
average curveball in and out of lineups.
He has had Lady Luck on his side, but let's be honest, if FIP is a good
indication of a pitchers true ERA, who's going to complain about the back end
of our rotation with a 3.54 ERA. And as
history and the numbers have shown us, if Hendricks stays in the classroom, his
ERA should always be a little bit lower than his FIP. Nerd out Hendricks, nerd out.
Ever since the intriguing July 4th trade in which the Cubs
predictably traded short term proven value for long term potential value, there
has been speculation about who/what/how/when the Cubs would get their paws (pun
intended) on good pitching.
Although it wasn't 100%, the majority of Cubs fans,
bloggers, and ESPN analysts have hinted or flat out stated that the Cubs should
use Starlin Castro for trade value, specifically with teams like the Mets.
The theory is: Trade Starlin
Castro for a Mets big arm like Noah Syndergaard and maybe another arm, then
call up Addison Russell...and boom championship. (Well maybe I exaggerated the
last part) but it sounds great...in theory.
These people are forgetting a
great piece of wisdom: One in the hand is
worth two in the bush.
These people are stuck in
2013, a season where EVERYONE Sveumed...I mean struggled. Starlin has broken through that barrier and made
the necassary adjustments. He looks more
confident at the plate, comfortable in the field, and it looks like he is just
having more fun. But enough of me softly
rambling on about things that can't be measured. Let's look at his numbers this year:
Starlin Castro has posted a
109 wRC+ with a .333 wOBA. He's had a tad
bit of luck (or he's hitting the ball a lot harder) with a .329 BABIP. He's even shown a lot more power, pinning up
a solid .142 ISO. His whole season has
been capped off by this month of August where Starlin has dominated every team
In August Starlin has a wRC+
of 156, a .400 wOBA, a .413 OBP, and a 14 game hitting streak that ended
yesterday but was followed today by a go ahead HR in the 9th. I can metaphorically see him rounding second
base in his homerun of a career (where the homerun is his peak). And yes his awkward ice skating sort of
Also, Starlin's plate
discipline and selective aggressiveness has greatly improved, I can't explain
it as well as MRubio52 did at the Cubs Den: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2014/08/castro-rizzo-adjustment/
but trust me, it's gotten better.
Still though, it's Noah
Syndergaard and Addison Russell.
Don't you think there's a
reason that Theo Epstein hasn't drafted a pitcher with the Cubs first
pick? It's because young arms are
unpredictable in performance and exclusively durability. I was going to give you a list of young top
prospects who needed Tommy Johns this year, but the Google search shocked me
with the variety of names, you as the reader should experience it
yourself. Just google: Top Prospect
Tommy Johns Surgery. It's scary. Syndergaard already been on the DL this year
with an elbow strain.
I don't want to rip the kid
though, he's been fantastic. Posting a
3.88 FIP, while getting 8.25 K/9.
How about Addison
Russell? He's been dominating Daytona.
Cubs (AA) 2010
Look at those numbers...this
guy doesn't belong in this league...Oh wait, he's not. Those numbers are Starlin Castro's before his
call up to the bigs.
Here are Addison Russell's:
Cubs (AA) 2014
The point is this: Addison
Russell isn't going to step onto the major league field and be Starlin Castro,
or even better than Starlin Castro.
Addison Russell hasn't even put up better numbers than Starlin did at
My case is already closed but
I want to add one little thing for your brain to chew on. Why did the Cubs sign Manny Ramirez to a
minor league deal?
Starlin Castro has been an all
star, and has also been benched for lack of concentration. He was the next big thing, to the next big
"What Happened?". If there
isn't any value in having a guy who can talk to the mob of minor league talent
coming up to a brand new world then why do we give players a C on their
Starlin Castro has so much
value moving foreward as the Cubs SS or 3B or wherever he ends up.
Oh and he's signed to a team
friendly contract through 2019.
Game 1: Travis
Wood LHP (7-9 4.86 ERA) vs. Zack Wheeler RHP (7-8 3.53 ERA)
Zack Wheeler has been very impressive lately going 2-0 with
a 2.79 ERA over his last three starts.
This is a bad matchup for Chicago, because like Fiers, Wheeler is a high
strikeout guy and nobody on the Chicago roster has faced him.
Travis Wood has not lived up to expectations this year,
especially on the road (4-6 6.11 ERA).
Players with over 10 AB's against Wood are hitting a combined .214. While Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares have both
homered off of Travis Wood.
Game 2: Dan
Straily RHP (1-2 4.93 ERA) vs. Jon Niese LHP (6-8 3.46 ERA)
Jon Niese is coming off his best start vs. the Phillies
going 7 innings and only allowing 2 ER.
Niese has also pitched very well at home posting a 2.89 ERA.
Dan Straily is making his first start for the Chicago Cubs
and has never faced a Mets batter. Since
joining Iowa Straily is 3-3 with a 3.0 ERA.
Straily was aquired in the Samardzija, Hammel deal.
Castro has had great success against Niese going 5-16 with 1
HR and 5 RBI. I would also like to see
Junior Lake get the start in left field because Coghlan and Ruggiano are a
combined 4-24 vs Niese and Lake is much better against lefties.
Game 3: Jake
Arrieta RHP (6-4 2.77 ERA) vs. Rafael Montero RHP (0-3 6.17 ERA)
This game will be a good test for Arrieta going on the road
for the first time since his 9 ER game in Colorado. Arrieta will miss Wrigley very much though,
leaving it with a 1.94 ERA.
Rafael Montero has had a rough go of it so far this
year. I don't expect very much to change
seeing he is prone to give up the longball (8 homers in 5 starts).
I believe this is a good matchup for the Cubs. Arrieta, a high strikeout pitcher, is facing
a Mets lineup that ranks 6th in the league in strikeouts. The one big hurdle for Arrieta will be trying
to get Curtis Granderson out. Granderson
is batting .409 with 3 HR in 22 AB's against Arrieta.
Game 4: Kyle
Hendricks RHP (4-1 1.73 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon RHP (11-10 3.85 ERA)
I'm not going to over think this one, Hendricks already does
enough of that. Hendricks has smarted
his 89 MPH fastball and 76 MPH changeup through lineup after lineup and I don't
expect much of that to change, especially seeing nobody on the Mets has faced
Bartolo Colon is coming off one of his better starts
allowing just two runs on 89 pitches (7 IP) against the Nationals. He also has a 1.09 WHIP at home.
None of these batters are very familiar with the opposing
pitchers so it's hard to take a good guess at this one but I really don't want
to bet against Maddux...I mean Henricks.