Kyle Hendricks Somehow Leads MLB in Wins Despite Cubs’ Futility

After Tuesday’s streak-stopping victory in Cincinnati, Kyle Hendricks now has an MLB-leading 14 wins on the season. That’s more than any other two Cubs pitchers combined and only 10 fewer than the Cubs’ other primary starters have managed to accumulate in 90 starts. Hendricks has started 25 games, so we’re looking at 26% of the wins in 20% of the games.

I guess that’s actually a lot less impressive when you put it that way because it removes the context necessary to make the feat stand out. When you consider how much shorter starter’s outings are now than in the past and the reduced potential to earn a decision, though, things start to look better.

Not surprisingly, the Cubs have won only one of the six no-decisions Hendricks has had this year. What is perhaps a little surprising is that they’ve only been outscored by 15 runs over those games, with 10 of them coming in a 14-4 blowout at Milwaukee on June 28. The Cubs lost by no more than two runs in any of the other games, one of which was a one-run win. And in three of those losses, the Cubs scored just two runs.

What I’m getting at is that Hendricks should probably have at least 15 or 16 wins in spite of pitching for a team that has been on the fast track to 100 losses over the last two months. He’s also doing it despite allowing more hits than any other pitcher in baseball and more homers than all but three others.

Nick Castellanos had one of the Reds’ three hits against Hendricks, a home run that accounted for all of Cincy’s scoring, but he also grounded out twice before that. Getting into a groove with his various offerings, particularly the offspeed, has made all the difference in Hendricks avoiding big outbursts.

“Hendricks is a good pitcher, man,” the former Cub said after the game. “There’s no way around it, especially when he’s on and has command of his changeup.”

Through his first 12 starts, Hendricks was getting negative overall results from all of his pitches because he was woefully inconsistent. Over 13 subsequent starts, however, his curve and changeup have been much better and his fastball location has improved so that it’s not awful even when it’s not great. Just don’t tell Castellanos the change was actually Hendricks’ worst pitch on Tuesday.

It’s just amazing that Hendricks has been on the mound for so many wins when the Cubs have so few and that he rattled off eight consecutive winning decisions at one point. Even more amazing is that he took only one loss during the Cubs’ two long skids combined, getting three no-decisions in the process. Getting a win in his latest effort was doubly satisfying because it not only ended the streak, it followed a terrible outing against the Brewers in which he gave up nine earned runs.

“It was just a good feeling in the clubhouse, obviously,” Hendricks said, “with what we’ve been going through lately, just to finally see a result.”

With as many as seven starts remaining, depending on whether the Cubs try to keep an extended rotation or given him a day off, Hendricks has an outside shot at getting 20 wins. It’s waaaay outside, though not nearly as much as the chance that the Cubs lose 100 games. Even if he doesn’t win all of his remaining outings, he could lead the majors in wins on a team with only 60-ish total victories.

That’s some wild stuff, folks.

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