Wow, Kyle Hendricks looked incredible against the Giants Monday night. He nearly completed the game and should have had a shutout in what was easily his most impressive start of the year.
The most promising feature of the outing was the lethal effectiveness of his tumbling changeup. When Hendricks is on — like, really on — batters don’t connect against his change-of-pace. Indeed, of the 37 changes he threw Monday night, Giants batters whiffed 13 times (35 percent). That was his highest single-game total since August of 2016 and his best rate since last year’s NLCS against the World Series runner-up Dodgers.
“Everything works off my fastball. When I’m establishing my fastball at the bottom of the zone and they’re seeing it, I’m getting called strikes right at the bottom, the changeup is coming out right on the same plane,” Hendricks explained. “They have to respect it.”
And “establishing the fastball” is exactly what Hendricks did against the Giants, as illustrated below. He gave up no barrels, induced lots of whiffs, and only gave almost exclusively weak contact. It was as if Hendricks was playing darts with Willson Contreras as the board.
Hendricks also showed impressive velocity, though it was not drastically different from his current season range. Still, it’s fun to see him pumping in 90 mph fastballs only to follow up by fooling batters with offspeed stuff. That was certainly the case Monday night, as he threw his four-seamer 31 times at an average velocity of 87.5 mph.
Honestly, I don’t think you could’ve asked for a better start from Hendricks when considering his recent struggles. The normally consistent righty showcased exactly what made him a Cy Young candidate by keeping Giants batters on their toes with a flurry of heavy, sinking fastballs and sharp-breaking changeups.
If he can continue that trend, good luck trying to hit vintage Kyle Hendricks.