With apologies to the talented Anna Kendrick, if Kyle Hendricks can sing a decent version of Don’t You (Forget About Me), then I would absolutely accept Hendricks to step in for the next Pitch Perfect. Heck, even if Hendricks can’t sing, he’s shown enough control in his pitching career to warrant some praise. On top of his excellent 1.55 BB/9 this year — and 1.61 for his career — Hendricks is flashing a few more strikeouts this year. Rather than wax poetic about his control, check out the table below for his rankings among the 77 starting pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched this season (prior to yesterday’s games). Arbitrary endpoint alert, but it represents about half a season, perfect for this time of year.
Hendricks rates in the top half for most of the stats, and his walk rate ranks among the best starters in the game. As someone who relies largely on a sinker, seeing a modest 49.8 percent ground ball rate is a bit surprising. It should be noted that he still is above average in ground ball rate, as starting pitchers have induced a worm burner 45.4 percent of the time the ball was put in play this season. As a sinkerballer, it’s interesting to see Hendricks has actually added a tick of velocity across the board compared to last season. Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, we can see the slight rise in velocity.
Unfortunately for guys who rely on their sinker, as the velocity of it increases, it tends to flatten out. The following displays Hendricks’ movement + gravity for his pitches in inches, again comparing last season and this season.
It’s hard to fault a pitcher or a singer for occasionally going flat from time to time, but even as Hendricks sees his sinker move a couple inches less, he has induced more whiffs on his changeup. Hendricks coaxed a whiff on 21.9 percent of changeups that batters offered at last year. This season that number has jumped to 24.8 percent. While his overall swinging strike rate is has dipped to 7.5 percent, Hendricks has something else going for him: he’s been getting the benefit of the doubt on borderline pitches, helping bolster his K numbers despite the lower whiff rate.
Via StatCorner, Hendricks’ 13.8 percent oTkS (percentage of pitches outside the zone taken for strikes. Bonkers acronym, I know) is second highest among starting pitchers, trailing Mike Leake by 0.1 percentage point. I haven’t done the leg work on year-to-year correlation for called strikes just yet so this is a lot of conjecture on my part, but it seems like a potential skill. One can find a ton of player anecdotes about getting a certain pitcher getting a favorable strike zone. Look no further than Bryce Harper calling out Zack Greinke for getting pitches called strikes six inches off of the zone. For what it’s worth, Greinke’s 9.5 oTkS is tied for 43rd.
If Hendricks’ strong control both in the minors and in the show thus far is getting him the benefit of the doubt on borderline pitches, and the numbers suggest he is, that is something to exploit. I’m hesitant to call it a repeatable skill just yet, but you can count on me running some oTkS numbers in the offseason. For now I’m comfortable rolling with Hendricks as my SP4 in my 12-team home league. Between his strong walk rate, lack of home runs even in a tough park and solid defense behind him, Hendricks should continue to post strong results.