I went to a Wrigley yesterday with some lifelong Cubs fans. After Clayton Richard failed to retire any left-handed batters and the Cubs let up 6 runs in the final two innings, there was a lot of grumbling. The main sentiment was an appeal to trade for Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees, at the very least. Then someone said the Cubs should maybe consider adding another starter because “Hendricks couldn’t be trusted” (close quote).
What?! Kyle Hendricks unreliable? No way.
Kyle Hendricks is currently 16th in pitcher fWAR. He finished 27th in pitcher fWAR in 2015 with 3.4. His career ERA is 3.39 and his career FIP is 3.25 over 315 innings. Through 55 innings in 2016, he has a 2.93 ERA and a 2.78 FIP. What more does Kyle Hendricks need to prove?
Hendricks is not a “power pitcher”. Although his 7-8 K/9 range is hardly bad for a starter, even in this age of increased strikeouts, his velocity has never been off the charts and he doesn’t rely on blowing batters away. But he has a great defense behind him, he’s suppressing home runs well, and he’s limited his walks to under 2 BB/9 thus far.
Much in the same way Jose Quintana is constantly undervalued on the White Sox, Hendricks is setting himself up as a worse right-handed version across town. Hendricks has his issues, no doubt. He doesn’t go very deep into games, (his CGSO against the Phillies four days ago notwithstanding) and he is less highly touted in “contextualized” metrics like SIERA and Baseball Prospectus’ DRA. His DRA-pwarp is currently lower than CC Sabathia’s, which doesn’t make any sense but I’ll wait for that to stabilize, I suppose.
When you look at PITCH F/X data, Hendricks’ pitching mix features one amazing breaking pitch and a decent fastball. Of course, that’s not actually accurate, because it appears Hendricks has two different changeups that he can use to fool batters. That’s been enough to garner success in the majors thus far. Over his career, opponents are hitting for a .436 OPS against his changeups. His changeup K% was an absurd 35% last season, and it has remained over 30% in 2016.
Hendricks’ changeup alone should be enough to keep him in the rotation. And considering he’s the Cubs’ fifth starter and still pre-arb, it would be almost impossible to find a pitcher with similar value on the trade market without giving up major pieces of the Cubs’ minor league system (and Hendricks, most likely). And considering the postseason rotation would likely be Arrieta, Lester, Lackey and Hammel anyway, there is no reason the Cubs should supplant Hendricks.
If there’s anyone I’d be worried about, it would actually be Jason Hammel, even if he is rocking a 2.09 ERA so far this year. Hammel’s peripheral numbers are all worse than Hendricks’ and his 4.24 SIERA does not bode well. Hammel has shown a tendency to slow down in the second half of the season. His post-trade numbers with the Athletics were terrible. He had an ERA over 5 in the second half of last season and got lit up in the playoffs. If I had to pick between the two for my fantasy team, I would choose Hendricks. Hendricks has been better than Hammel over the last two seasons, and I don’t think that is going to change, especially considering Hammel is seven years older.
Kyle Hendricks has long passed the days in which I could stream him through my fantasy lineup on a regular basis. He’s very good bargain, under team control and currently an elite starter. Theo should definitely go get Andrew Miller, but he doesn’t need to add to his starting rotation.