• What's Hindering Hendriks?

    The befuddlement continues as Hendriks’ winless streak now reaches 17 starts and counting.

    Dating back to beginning of 2011, Hendriks has put up two stellar seasons in the minor leagues, posting a 2.86 ERA with a 193/49 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 245.2 innings split between New Britain and Rochester. In 2011, the Twins named him their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Based on those figures and accolades, expectations were high for him.

    Naturally, that has not quite panned out so far at the major league level.
    Heading into last night’s game righties were hitting .381/.426/.702 in 143 plate appearances. That is a remarkable batting line considering the rest of the league’s right-handed pitchers have subdued their same-sided brethren to the tune of .252/.308/.398. The magnitude of those power numbers is unprecedented. Think about that: right-handed opponents’ slugging percentage (.702) off Hendriks is just five points lower than the league’s overall OPS (.707) during righty-on-righty action.

    What makes this case even more curious is that in the minors the past two seasons Hendriks handled righties just fine. According to MinorLeagueCentral.com’s splits, Hendriks limited right-handers to a .251/.288/.368 line over 518 match-ups since 2011. How is it that he managed to sidestep right-handers in AAA easy-peasy but is obliterated once he arrives to the majors?

    One explanation as to why Hendriks may have an easier time retiring lefties over righties may have to do with his unique delivery and the challenges it presents. Hendriks has a closed delivery - which is that his front foot lands more towards the third base side and he throws across his body.

    When facing left-handed batters, he will pepper the outer-half of the strike zone and (far too often this season) just off the plate to entice those hitters to swing at pitches away. Meanwhile, if he wants to pitch right-handers away (or lefties inside for that matter) he must throw across his entire body to reach the far side of the plate:



    Because he is throwing across his body and trying to hit the pitcher’s glove side of the zone, he has seen his command wane when trying to hit the far side of the plate. In last night’s start against the Kansas City Royals, catcher Drew Butera would frequently set up on the pitcher’s glove side of the plate and present a target. The majority of those offerings did not wind up at the intended destination. For example, in their fifth inning showdown, with two strikes on him, Butera scheduled a fastball down and in on the left-handed hitting Alex Gordon. Rather than hitting this spot, his fastball went up and away. Fortunately Gordon was unable to hold up for strike three.

    When it comes to right-handed hitters, Hendriks’ intentions appear to be to pepper the outer-half of their zone similar to lefties. Only the above scenario plays out leaving his pitches in a far too favorable of a spot for right-handed hitters:



    While his fastball has been hit pretty hard overall (.362/.412/.553) it is his slider, his most used secondary pitch, that has been bombed back to the Stone Age (.333/.349/.857). Seven of his 12 home runs allowed have come on this pitch (there is plenty of visual evidence of that). This should be his swing-and-miss pitch and yet it is getting destroyed – and part of that is related to his inability to pitch inside effectively.

    Whether it is game-planned or not, Hendriks has simply not shown opponents that he will throw the ball inside regularly – particularly to righties. For Hendriks, who is a fastball/slider pitcher to righties, this should be a critical element of his game. If he demonstrates that he is able to place his fastball on the inner-half, hitters will be forced to open their hips to respect that pitch which should enhance his slider that runs away from right-handers.

    Last year, in addressing this very subject, former major league pitcher Ron Darling said “That’s what gets a hitter to speed up his thought process. When he’s thinking ‘quick,’ that’s when you can get him out away. And, more important for a pitcher, it enables you to get away with the occasional mistake away because you’ve disrupted his timing just enough.”

    Hendriks has made plenty of mistakes away to righties this year but because he is not locating inside, right-handed hitters do not have to respect that portion of the zone and wind up leaning over the plate.

    As Terry Ryan insinuated after yesterday’s ballgame, Hendriks still have a lot to prove before he is considered a part of the 2013 rotation. Pitching inside effectively may be a part of that.
    This article was originally published in blog: What's hindering Hendriks? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      Very interesting observation.
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      Guy couldn't K anybody in the Minors stats show that, might be a good #5 in the National League. Here? Not happening
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Guy couldn't K anybody in the Minors stats show that
      He had a 19.5% k-rate the past two years in the minors. That's not great but it's not terrible either (like Nick Blackburn who had a 12% k-rate in AAA),
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Or he needs some Vegemite?
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Darn maybe he just isn't good enough, but we can still like him! Seems like a nice guy even if he talks funny.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Excellent analysis, Parker. They mirror my thoughts on Hendriks. Pitching across the body to same-sided hitters is folly. You need to go hard and inside on those hitters, giving them as little time as possible to watch the pitch travel to the plate. It shortens the pitch instead of giving a righty the chance to track the ball from the hand, across the plate, and into their wheelhouse (it also gives them a fraction of a second more to set up their swing or decide to take a ball). That's going to lead to disastrous results more often than not (plus, it allows righties to constantly crowd the plate and take the outside pitch away from the hurler).

      From day one, I've said that Hendriks needs to stop being cute with his pitching and stop pitching scared. He still hasn't done that.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Great analysis. He is clearly also aiming instead of throwing. I have been surprised by him this year because he seems like a very smart pitcher who takes getting better seriously.
    1. Wookiee of the Year's Avatar
      Wookiee of the Year -
      This is a strong analysis, but I'm still left wondering why right-handed hitters in AAA were held to a much lower average than those in the majors. Is the quality of right-handed hitting that much better in the majors? Has Hendrick's pitching strategy changed at all? Your analysis makes sense, except it still leaves me wondering why he found success against right-handers that he can't replicate one step up the ladder.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Wookiee of the Year View Post
      This is a strong analysis, but I'm still left wondering why right-handed hitters in AAA were held to a much lower average than those in the majors. Is the quality of right-handed hitting that much better in the majors? Has Hendrick's pitching strategy changed at all? Your analysis makes sense, except it still leaves me wondering why he found success against right-handers that he can't replicate one step up the ladder.
      3 variables:

      - different hitters (less experienced)
      - different catchers
      - different pitching coach

      I think all 3 have a role
    1. SpantheMan's Avatar
      SpantheMan -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      Guy couldn't K anybody in the Minors stats show that, might be a good #5 in the National League. Here? Not happening
      Don't give up on him. To doesn't have the potential to be a #5 starter after less than one season seems harsh
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      This is a great analysis, but it seems to me that Hendriks may also have developed a problem with his confidence. I wish that something could be done to get him to be more relaxed and just throw the damn ball inside.
    1. Montecore's Avatar
      Montecore -
      Informative.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      Scott Diamond is a #5 starter on 90% of major league rosters. Hendricks is Kevin Slowey with an accent. He won't be in the league anywhere in 2 years. The Twins need to stop wasting time on #5 starter types and try to find an ace and #2 & #3 guys. That's all that matters. There hasn't been anyone that's won the title in my lifetime where afterwards anyone said, "Yeah that #5 starter was key". You hear the Twins talk about it because they have nothing else.

      It an interesting point about the pictching angles but in reality the Twins probably already have seen this and didn't have him make the change for one of two reasons. 1. It didn't change anything or more likely, 2. He stopped throwing strikes.

      Basically you keep him in Rochester so you don't have to waste time signing someone to AAA this winter and hope you never have to call him up or if you do its because you are chasing a Top 5 draft pick for the 3rd straight season.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Let me ask you guys a question that I find interesting. Is Cole De Vries's "stuff" better than Liam Hendriks's?

      Most of us would agree that Hendriks has better raw stuff. Faster heater, more sweep on his slider, generally throws the ball a couple mph faster.

      Why is De Vries so much more successful than Hendriks?
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      Scott Diamond is a #5 starter on 90% of major league rosters.
      Name them, and the four starters better than him on those teams.
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