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Posted at 11:15 AM EST.
8:05 PM EST. Everyone knows the refrain around Kyle Hendricks’ (RHP - CHC) success. Yes, he has the fifth-best ERA among starters since his breakout 2016, and yes, he’s sustained his well-above-average performance in the years since that. But, the chorus goes, he’s a command and changeup specialist whose fastball maxes out at 91 mph on a good day. There are a lot of ways this could blow up but don’t count on it.
Here’s Hendricks’ progression in the Called Strike Probability metric, which improves on zone rate by accounting for a variety of factors to provide a more complete picture of how likely each pitch is to be a strike. The initial impression of him, which has stuck, was correct: He had a low called strike probability, skirting the zone and tempting hitters to either hack at borderline pitches or leave their fates to the umpires.
Recently, though …
2015: .460, 88th of 119 (min. 120 innings)
2016: .452, 89th of 118
2017: .466, 59th of 115
2018: .503, 16th of 116
2019: .535, 1st of 108 (min. 45 innings)
Hendricks, he of the underwhelming pure stuff, is throwing more strikes than anyone in baseball. OK then. To be fair, opposing batters are swinging more than they used to against the Cubs right-hander, but there’s a lag. They still haven’t crossed the league average clip against the most ardent strike-thrower. Result: The guy you may remember completing a shutout in a mind-boggling 81 pitches is converting 68.8 percent of his deliveries into strikes — second-best in the game. As for the results, same ol’ same ol’ for Hendricks, who enters today’s start with a 3.09 ERA. It may simply be his way of maintaining a (still impressive) status quo. While daring to live in the danger zone, he’s also putting more of his eggs in the sinker and changeup baskets. Hendricks can easily go seven or eight innings and the Rockies on the road are not that threatening.
Jeff Hoffman (RHP - COL) at Wrigley with the wind blowing out is a disaster waiting to happen. Hoffman has everything working against him here. His groundball/fly-ball split is 35%/37% with a 28% line-drive rate thrown in. He has a alarming WHIP of 1.60. Indeed he throws strikes but a lot of those are dead red and hitters are having little trouble squaring up on him. Hoffman’s career record does little to recommend him. In 23 starts for Colorado from 2016-2018, Hoffman posted a 5.68 ERA and 1.50 WHIP and his 2019 AAA-Albuquerque experience has been the stuff of nightmares: 35 IP, 30 ER, 8 HR allowed. 7.37 ERA. In three starts for the Rocks since being called up, Hoffman has posted a 7.20 ERA over 15 innings with three jacks surrendered. Can’t imagine this working out well for Hoffman or the Rocks.
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