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Is The Professor's Class Out Of Session for the Cubs?

In a season with much anticipation surrounding it, a new manager, and a couple of young stars added to spark the batting order, the Cubs look to their veteran players to lead this team to a playoff appearance, something that hasn’t happened in four years. One of those players is Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks, the 34-year-old veteran, does not have the season any member of the Cubs' organization wanted him to have. Everyone had hoped he could sit back in the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation and settle around a 4.00 ERA. Well, that's just not been the case for 2024, and the Cubs may need to find another option in the rotation and find one soon if they want any chance to hold their plus .500 record.

On Tuesday, Hendricks was moved to the 15-day IL with a lower back strain. "Per Bruce Levine, the Cubs and Hendricks are mapping out a plan for rehab and return. He will throw a side session in Boston to determine where he is at physically." It does make you wonder if this IL stint for Hendricks is just a 15-day shutdown to get another arm on the big league roster and see where the Cubs stand without the veteran pitcher. So, what has gone wrong with Hendricks? Heck, he wasn't even that bad coming back from his shoulder injury last season, so what changed in Hendricks that has now made Cubs fans want him out of the rotation?

Let's start with Hendrick's strength, which is his command. Even though the 6.6 BB% isn't bad and, per Statcast, it is above average, it's too high compared to the 15.1 SO%. Hendricks isn't a strikeout pitcher; he'll get you with weak contact, but again, the 3.00 BB/9 is too high for a guy who can't afford to give up free passes. Well, what about the 3.4 HR/9? Yes, that's an obvious issue, and it looks like a lot of hitters are being able to pick up his fastball (sinker/4-seam); Hendricks has given an over .500 batting average on both his sinker and his 4-seamer; both pitches are extremely high went it comes to hard-hit percentage, as the sinker is at 38.0% and the 4-seam is at absurd 75.0%.

Even though I think a little bit of luck is attached to Hendrick's unsuccessful outings. Hendricks has a .392 BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play), but a 31.7 hard-hit percentage, the second lowest in his career (so far). So, the balls that are being hit are falling for hits, but they're not being hit all that hard. I also think it's important to note that Hendricks usually struggles in the early months of the season and then finds his groove later, but is waiting for Hendricks to find his groove worth the wait?

Unfortunately, with at least two young arms (Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski) chomping at the bit to get into the big league rotation, I think the Cubs have to start looking at other options, more specifically, Ben Brown. Brown was moved to the bullpen once Jameson Taillon returned to the rotation. The young right-hander succeeded in his two big league starts as he went a combined 10.2 innings, giving up four hits and striking out nine, which is all good. He had a 0.84 ERA in his first two starts. Also, once Justin Steele returns, Javier Assad can return to his traditional swingman role. This Cubs rotation has the potential to be dangerous, and it especially needs to be during this time when Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki are both battling injuries.

Kyle Hendricks will always be one of my all-time favorite Cubs, and the game six against the Dodgers, where he would throw 7.1 shutout innings and striking out six, sending the Cubbies to the Fall Classic, will be one of my all-time favorite memories. But it's a "win now" for the North Siders, and Craig Counsell will be tasked with making the tough decision of whether Kyle Hendricks will be a part of the Cubs rotation in the future.


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