Chicago Cubs: Too early to worry about Kyle Hendricks?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks has a 6.48 ERA in three starts this season. He is, historically, a slow starter, but should Cubs fans be concerned?

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks is fresh off a four-year contract extension with the team, but he’s off to a rough start in 2019. Through three starts, Hendricks has a 6.48 ERA in 13.1 innings. It’s no secret that Hendricks is a slow starter, as his career ERA in the month of April is 4.21. However, he has also shown that he gets better as the season progresses, so this season shouldn’t be any different right?

Hendricks is often to compared to Greg Maddux and is never going to power a pitch by anyone as his fastball tops out around 87-88 mph. Instead, he relies heavily on location and good movement, especially from this changeup. That being said, Hendricks has been knocked around in his three starts this season allowing 24 hits and three home-runs.

Hendricks induces a lot of groundballs with a career 48.8 percent groundballs per balls hit in play. This season, he is getting just 35.3 percent groundballs and his flyball rate is eight percent higher than his career average of 30.2 percent. A big contributor to this is that Hendricks has really struggled to locate his sinker in 2019. He’s left a lot of them up in the strike zone, which would explain the decrease in groundballs and an increase in flyballs.

Let’s compare this season so far to a game in his Cy Young contending season in 2016. You can see in the figures (via FanGraphs) below the difference in the location of his sinker this season compared to 2016 (first two are lefty/righty batters from 2016, second two are lefty/righty batters from 2019). Add to that his changeups are finding much more of the middle of the strike zone this year, where in years’ past his changeup would finish well below the zone.

It’s certainly still early in the season, and if history has shown anything, it’s that Kyle Hendricks usually rebounds from a challenging April to post incredible numbers. The Cubs will be relying on Hendricks to be a steady starting pitcher in 2019 in order for the team to compete for the NL Central Crown and another World Series.

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I would imagine this is something that Cubs pitching coach, Tommy Hottovy has caught onto as well and will be working on with Kyle in between now and his next start. Based on the calendar, Hendricks figures to start next Friday against the Diamondbacks.