Make no mistake about it, the Chicago Cubs have a lot of issues going on right now. It’s easy to point the blame in many different directions. Could it be the ups and downs of an extremely young team? Absolutely. Could it be lack of leadership? No doubt. Is it the rotation that has an ERA of 4.81 at the all-star break? A lineup that simply hasn’t produced? I could go on and on. It’s probably a combination of all of those factors, but I think there is one missing link that often flies under the radar. Kyle Hendricks.
Now don’t get me wrong, last year we got a solid look at how effective Hendricks can be. I mean let’s be honest, there’s a reason Joe Maddon trusted him on the bump in game 6 of the NLCS against the Dodgers (where he would go on to beat Clayton Kershaw) and game 7 of the World Series. With that being said, I still don’t think he’s gotten the credit he deserves. For a guy that throws his fastball at 88 mph and relies on movement, he’s been nothing short of fantastic in his time in the show.
Hendricks is 4-3 with a 4.09 ERA in 11 games started this year. Hendricks has been rehabbing a right hand inflammation injury since June 5. Could the injury have played into Hendricks struggles through his first 11 starts of 2017? Hard to say. One thing for certain is that Hendricks owns a career record of 35-20 with a 3.06 ERA. With over 500 innings pitched in his career, we’ve had a nice sample size of Kyle Hendricks on the mound. At 27 years of age, it’s fair to assume he’s going to continue to improve.
The Cubs desperately need a guy that brings consistency to the bump every five days and look for a healthy Hendricks to be that guy in the second half. I’m not speculating that Lester or Arrieta can’t be that guy, but the first half couldn’t have gone much worse for the Cubs (considering what happened last year). I have to believe not having Hendricks in the middle of the rotation for most of the first half played a pivotal role.
Last year, the Cubs were fortunate enough to have three healthy pitchers (all season long) capable of really good pitching every start. In order for that to happen in 2017, they need a guy who is going to put his head down and get to work. Enough is enough. The first half has been a rollercoaster ride and it’s time for our quiet leader to put his foot down.
Hendricks brings an even-keeled demeanor to the mound that will set the tone for the rest of the rotation in the second half. Once Hendricks returns healthy, don’t be surprised to see the Cubs get hot.
Class is soon to be back in session.
– Josh Schaffer (@j_schaffs)