Shortly, the Cubs will play game 162 in the 2016 season, a season that has lived up to the hype and expectations of the off-season. With the big off-season additions of Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, and Jason Heyward, the Cubs were picked by many to win not only the NL Central, but also favorites to win it all. While sluggers Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have performed as expected, belting a combined 71 home runs and 210 RBI’s and hurlers Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have done their part, one player on Chicago’s roster has stood out among them all and surprised everyone. That player is Kyle Hendricks.
Kyle Hendricks. Unless your a Cub fan, that is a name that most people wouldn’t have recognized in Spring Training. He is used to that though. Even in high school, other pitchers still got more recognition than Hendricks, solely based on the fact that he couldn’t throw the ball as hard as they could. Until his senior year, Tyler Matzek was getting more looks and better offers than Hendricks because he was throwing the ball in the mid to high 90’s. At the end of his senior season at Capistrano Valley High School, Hendricks had compiled a 1.25 ERA in 72 2/3 innings pitched with 72 strikeouts, earning him looks from Dartmouth and the University of San Diego. Hendricks was also drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 39th round, but opted to go to school just in case is 80 MPH fastball wasn’t enough to take him anywhere. He was a smart kid with a 4.o GPA in high school, so it isn’t surprising that he chose to have a back-up plan. He began his freshman year at Dartmouth and instantly excelled earning freshman all american honors, by winning his first starts against Ivy league opponents including the Ivy league championship game. The success continued into his junior year, where he was awarded first team all ivy pitcher compiling a 2.47 ERA which was third in the conference. Later that year Hendricks was drafted in the 8th round by the Texas Rangers and decided to forego his senior year to start his career has a professional baseball player. Hendricks ended his career at Dartmouth tied for 11th with 15 wins and 8th in strikeouts with 174.
It didn’t take long for Hendricks to make an impact once reached the professional level. In his first season with the Rangers low A team, Hendricks was 2-2 with 3 saves and a 1.93 ERA in 20 games. He continued that success going into the 2012 season before being traded to the Cubs at the trade line for Ryan Dempster. After having a standout year and both AA and AAA Hendricks received minor league pitcher of the year honors. Hendricks made his debut in July of 2014 and ended his rookie season with a 7-2 record. He started the 2015 season at the back end of the Chicago rotation, and compiled an 8-7 record with a 3.95 ERA.
Coming into 2016, Hendricks began spring training fighting for the 5th starters spot. With the signing of John Lackey and trade acquisition of Adam Warren, it wasn’t a sure thing that he would be a part of the rotation. He worked his way into the rotation and ended the first half of baseball with a 7-6 record and a rotation leading 2.55 ERA. After the break, Hendricks lowered his ERA to 1.99 which has included a complete game against the Miami Marlins on August 1st, and a near no-hitter against the Cardinals 2 starts ago.
Kyle Hendricks has put on an impressive season. As he toes the rubber today he looks to be the first Cub since Bill Lee in 1938 to lead all of baseball in ERA. He does it not with over powering stuff, but with great location and knowledge of how to attack each hitter. He leads all of major league baseball with a 25.1 % soft contact rate, which is a huge factor why he is 4th in all of baseball in BABIP. While he may not be one of the most flashiest pitchers in the game today, he shows you that you don’t have to light up the radar gun to be successful. He pitches smart, attacks the corners, has one of the best change-ups in baseball and has excellent command. At the end of the day, regardless of how many strikeouts he has, Kyle Hendricks has been the story of baseball and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon. He will be the Cubs game two starter once the playoffs hit, and don’t be surprised if he succeeds then to. He has a knack for it. And if you ask me, Kyle Hendricks is my 2016 NL Cy Young award winner.