Kyle Hendricks burst on to the scene and was rather impressive after he was called up last season. I wanted to take a little deeper look into his Major League debut with a statistical analysis and to see if we could expect more of the same in 2015.
Hendricks having limited Major League experience is an interesting case for the Cubs. He received a call-up last July and pitched to a 7-2 record in 13 starts. In 80.1 innings, Hendricks registered a 2.46 earned run average to go with a 3.32 FIP while only walking 15 batters with 72 hits, 47 strikeouts and a 1.08 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).
FIP is a unique statistic and stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. According to Baseball Prospectus, Fielding Independent Pitching converts a pitcher’s three true outcomes into an earned run average-like number. The formula is 13*HR+3*BB-2*K/IP, plus a constant (usually around 3.2) to put it on the same scale as earned run average.
For reference an excellent FIP is between 0 and 2.50. A great FIP is between 2.50 and 3.50 while an average FIP is between 3.50 and 4.50.
When looking at the list of pitchers of the 88 that qualified only 32 had FIPs below 3.50. The leaders were Clayton Kershaw with a 1.81 FIP and Corey Kluber with a 2.35 FIP and both won Cy Young awards for their respective leagues. This isn’t saying that Hendricks will have that level of success and reach those numbers in 2015, but it’s a very good indicator if he were to get a full season at the major league level for numbers to target.
Another statistic I wanted to focus on was GB% which refers to ground ball ratio. This statistic is very important because it’s where Hendricks gets a majority of his outs do to his low strikeout or K rates.
From Fangraphs the formula for Ground Ball Percentage (GB%) is Ground Balls / Balls in Play. If a pitcher’s groundball ratio is approaching 50% they are classified as a groundball pitcher. And that’s exactly what Kyle Hendricks is.
If he would have had the amount of innings to qualify Hendricks would have ranked somewhere within in the top 35 pitchers in this category at 47%. The high GB% is due to Hendricks throwing his sinker 46.4% of the time according to Pitch F/x.
In 2015, the two things to keep an eye on with Hendricks are his ability to keep the ball down and induce ground balls while keeping his K/BB (strikeout to walk ratio) around 2.5 to 3. Kyle Hendricks won’t blow hitters away but he is very crafty about his approach to pitching and keeping hitters off balance.