Kyle Hendricks’ Recent Run of Success Truly a Team Effort
Kyle Hendricks has always been the type of pitcher who relies on his teammates to help him out because he pitches to contact and needs them to get their gloves on the grounders he generates at a 50% clip. That symbiotic relationship has grown stronger this season, though it’s taken on a different form from what we’ve seen in the past. And that’s not just because Hendricks is getting a career-low groundball rate (43% heading into his Friday start in LA).
As Tony Andracki explained over at NBC Sports Chicago, Hendricks is benefiting from the advice of the guys around him. He has credited a more aggressive mindset for his recent success, but the motivation for that hasn’t always been intrinsic. Willson Contreras, who’s got aggressiveness and excitement to spare, may have helped a little.
“What he was putting down — he could feel what the hitters were doing better than I could,” Hendricks explained after his recent start against the Cardinals. “So I started relying on him and he had more energy and he just mentally got me to be more aggressive and more into it.”
You may have also noticed Javy Báez being an active participant in mound visits, but his input is much more than a matter of talking about positioning. Far more than a product of flash and swag, Javy’s baseball IQ is as high as anyone and Hendricks takes his very seriously.
“I’ll look back to short and he’ll kinda give me signals even when he’s not coming out for the visit. In that situation, I know what he’s seeing and he sees the game as well as anyone. So if they’re late or early, what guys are sitting on, I definitely take into consideration what he tells us.”
Jason Heyward is another player whose defensive prowess is born of far more than just superior athleticism. He picks up hitters’ tendencies from his station in the outfield and he’ll share those observations with Hendricks between innings. That led to the righty getting Marlins hitters to chase early, a departure from his typical strategy.
Anyway, I’ve already poached enough of Andracki’s work and I suggest you click on that link above and read his piece if you haven’t already. I will, however, offer a parting thought on the matter, which is that I love seeing this kind of interaction between players who are willingly setting aside their egos for the betterment of the team.
In a way, it’s very similar to what we saw when Ben Zobrist — who is actually expected to return to the Cubs at some point this season — begged out of the lineup in favor of David Bote. Listen, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that this type of openness to teammates’ advice is going to win Hendricks the Cy Young or anything, but it sure as hell can’t hurt.
I guess you might even say it’s working out pretty well for the Professor to become the student every once in a while.