Will a little magic help the Chicago Cubs offense? And maybe Kyle Hendricks, too?

When your offense disappears, it’s only logical that a magician might have some idea of how to go about finding it.

Most of the talk surrounding the Chicago Cubs’ 1-0 win over the New York Mets concerned the magician Joe Maddon brought in for a little pre-game entertainment. It turns out the magician had no clue how to go about finding the Cubs’ missing offense because it once again was nowhere to be found Tuesday night.

But no one really cares, because, hey, the Cubs won! And after this last weekend in St. Louis, a win feels really, really good.

The Cubs are now 4 for their last 46 with RISP –that’s a robust .086 average, but lucky for them, the Mets struggle similarly. So what happens when two teams with offenses scuffling this badly meet?

Kyle Hendricks and Jon Niese combine for 13 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 13 K.

When struggling lineups collide, any pitcher can look the part, but the big takeaway here is that if Hendricks can show some semblance of the pitcher he was last year, the Cubs are going to be in much better shape as they look to upgrade their rotation –which at this point seems something they absolutely have to (and probably will) do.

Despite the surface numbers being significantly different between 2014 and 2015, Hendricks’ other numbers suggest him to be virtually the same pitcher he was last season, which is surprising given his ERA being 4.15 (versus the 2.46 it was in 2014).

Is Kyle Hendricks ready to turn a corner for the Chicago Cubs?
Is Kyle Hendricks ready to turn a corner for the Chicago Cubs?

The impressive ERA last season not withstanding, his FIP was actually 3.32, suggesting a little fortunate luck on the side of Hendricks last season. This season, despite the ERA being 4.15, his FIP is 3.55. When combined with last year, it makes it look like the luck has just swung the other direction –not uncommon with ground ball pitchers like Hendricks.

The reason this stat is intriguing is because many of his other stats are actually better than they were last year. He’s striking more guys out (7.33 K/9 in 2015; 5.27 in 2014), while not increasing his walk rate (1.70 BB/9 in 2015; 1.68 in 2014), and has actually increased his ground ball rate (48.6% in 2015; 47.8 % in 2014). That is noteworthy considering that Hendricks has actually given up more than double the amount of home runs he did in virtually the same number of innings last season — 4 HR in 80.1 innings in 2014; 9 HR in 84.2 innings in 2015 — which suggests he’s leaving the ball up a little more. Overall, that’s not the case; he’s apparently just leaving it up to the wrong batters.

He’s throwing more straight fastballs, a few less cutters, and a remarkably consistent number of change-ups and curveballs. His fastball velocity is up a bit, but as Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation points out, Hendricks is showcasing even more than the stat suggests, spiking to 92-93 mph on occasion, up from his normal 87-89 mph. This would classify as an intriguing development.

The peripherals — and the shutout performance last night, let’s be honest — continue to fill in an interesting picture concerning the Cubs’ fourth starter. Hendricks appears to have the know-how; Cubs fans are just waiting to see if he can put it all together.

If he does, he might not be a number four starter for long.

Brian Davis

I'm a writer and a musician who happens to have a great affinity for Chicago sports. www.briandaviswriting.com

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