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  • What does Liam Hendriks need to do to succeed?

    Liam Hendriks delivering a pitch in SeptemberLiam Hendriks could very well be one of the five starting pitchers the Minnesota Twins take north when camp breaks at the end of the month.

    He has the minor league numbers to show that he capable of retiring batters. He just needs to do the same against major league hitters. One area he needs to improve on in 2013 is achieving better result when he releases a slider from his fingertips.

    Coming off the season he had last year, no one would blame him from shelving the pitch indefinitely. Just under 200 times, Hendriks twirled his slider towards home. He retired a batter on that pitch in less than 5% of those occasions – the lowest rate in baseball with a minimum of 100 pitches in 2012. On seven instances, that slider became a home run. Admittedly, six other pitchers managed to surrender more jack jobs on the slide piece but those pitchers also threw the breaking ball at least 300 more times than Hendriks did.

    Those are some stomach-churning results.

    A 2012 interview with MILB.com’s Andrew Pentis may help illuminate Hendriks’ struggles with the pitch. According to the interview, the then Rochester Red Wing told Pentis that he had acquired the slider in 2008 from former reliever Graeme Lloyd, another hurler of Australian descent who was coaching down under. Hendriks said that the slider is his “fourth pitch”, behind his two fastballs and change, and he likes to throw it in on lefties and away to righties.

    When it comes to the latter, therein lies the problem. Last year I examined some of Hendriks’ tendencies and video to find that his closed landing foot causes an inability to hit the outer-half of the plate to righties as effectively as he would hitting the inside corner. Here we see his heat map of where his slider crossed the plate:



    While it appears that he is trying to work away with his slider -- as evidenced by his sporadic spotting down and away -- the majority of his offerings fall within the zone, specifically in the dreaded “middle-middle” location. These are easily feasted upon and have led to a .341 average against (15-for-44) with seven of those hits becoming home runs in 2012.

    His second start of the spring, a three-inning affair, showed promise that his future remains bright. Following the game, Hendriks told reporters that he had been working on his mechanics:

    “My leg kick is not as high. I want to make sure I stay back and don’t leak. It helps me to stay back. If I kick too high, I rotate a little bit and stay more closed. This helps me open up a little bit.”
    Hendriks continued by saying he did want to remain closed “a little bit” to add to the deception. That may not be a bad thing. After all, it may be a part of this deception which allowed him to maintain a reverse split: a .786 OPS facing lefties and a .998 OPS facing righties. But the improvement in the motion could be enough to allow for better placement of his slider – something that he told reporters felt better after his second spring start.

    With sustained success in the majors his ultimate goal, finding a stable breaking offering to throw to right-handers will be somewhat critical. If this mechanical adjustment can help facilitate that, then he may be able to replicate some of his minor league triumphs at the big league level.
    This article was originally published in blog: What does Liam Hendriks need to do to succeed? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Is there any example where a starting pitcher has succeeded with two different landing spots? Maybe if Hendriks stayed closed against LHB, but opened up against RHBs, he could have the best of both worlds.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      Why not can the slider permanently? He's got a decent curve and a decent change so why does he need the slider?
    1. 3up3down's Avatar
      3up3down -
      I have watched every ST game except 1 ,watched all of Hendricks starts, his first start he was shaking his arm & acting like it was bothering him after giving up a couple hits....2nd start was better, looked better ,last start was ok but did not handle it well after willingham lost the ball in the sun, walking the next batter then giving up a hit for the 2nd run.. His stuff hasn't changed & it's not better. The best option for the 5th starter is Gibson but I just don't think he starts the season in the bigs, he should but I don't believe he will...then next is Devries & Walters , both are pitching well & stuff wise are clearly better than Hendricks. .a friend of mine that scouts & is scouting ST games has the same opinion & says he wonders why the twins are set on Hendricks when he thinks they have better options..
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Well limite walks, limite baserunners, limite runs scored against,
      All kidding aside, Liam will get his shots this year as well as Devries and Deuno me thinks,as we have 1 shoulder problem (harden) 2 T.J.s(Pelfrey n Gibson) and 3 chippers(worely,diamond, and liam ) so I will continue to believe there will be plenty of tickets leaving Rochester this season
    1. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      What I see in Hendriks is that he has a different motion for the fastball vs the off-speed stuff. He actually slows down when he throws the off-speed stuff. I hope that Parker can document this on a real-time video. But, from my perspective, when your motion slows down and hitters know the off-speed stuff is coming, it's a a big tip-off. That might explain the difference between MLB and MiLB. In either case, I like this kid and think he has a future. He just has to iron out his delivery and what might be tipping his pitches.
    1. Twinsfan46's Avatar
      Twinsfan46 -
      I have watched Hendriks a few times, and after each I wonder what all of his supporters see other than the minor league track record. His fastball is below average and his other pitches are worse. His mental approach seems lacking as well. I think I would like to see him traded after a few decent spring training starts. I know the Twins need pitching more than anything, but I just don't see him being any type of answer. The underlying stats even at AAA, to me, don't suggest a run that is sustainable.

      In my mind he is a AAAA pitcher and that is not ultimately going to lead the Twins back to where they want to be.

      Am I missing something?
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      It seems to me that Hendriks needs an effective "out" pitch. If that can be his slider, then I think that he can succeed.

      Last year I watched him pitch in Anaheim against the Angels in the game where Weaver threw the no hitter. It seemed like the Angels quickly adapted to Hendriks and kept fouling off pitches until he gave them something they could drive. It seemed to me that if he had a decent slider, then he could do a better job keeping the batters off balance.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      It seems to me that Hendriks needs an effective "out" pitch. If that can be his slider, then I think that he can succeed.

      Last year I watched him pitch in Anaheim against the Angels in the game where Weaver threw the no hitter. It seemed like the Angels quickly adapted to Hendriks and kept fouling off pitches until he gave them something they could drive. It seemed to me that if he had a decent slider, then he could do a better job keeping the batters off balance.
      I know we've had this conversation before, but gee whiz, CAN the slider if he can't master it or disguise it properly- and- CAN Cuellar teach this kid a cutter in short order? If he had an effective one, he'd have probably gotten that Angels guy to ground out or K, Glunn- and all these discussions about his flawed "mental approach" and "confidence level" become moot.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      It seems to me that Hendriks needs an effective "out" pitch. If that can be his slider, then I think that he can succeed.

      Last year I watched him pitch in Anaheim against the Angels in the game where Weaver threw the no hitter. It seemed like the Angels quickly adapted to Hendriks and kept fouling off pitches until he gave them something they could drive. It seemed to me that if he had a decent slider, then he could do a better job keeping the batters off balance.
      Boy, I don't think you develop an out pitch in AAA. Or at least not in a matter of months. If this is what he needs, then he needs to stay in AAA and work through that.
    1. 3up3down's Avatar
      3up3down -
      twinsfan46, your not missing anything, you are dead on..
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      He should move a few inches over on the rubber. Look how it worked for Capps and Blacky.
    1. Falcon25's Avatar
      Falcon25 -
      Twinsfan46 and 3up3down - thank god no one takes you seriously. You look at a young kid and you ignore the indicators in his development such as improved performances late last year. Statistically he was the best starter in the twins line up in the last month of last season that's not to say that he was brilliant but he had some good outings against some good opposition. Go back and do a pitch by pitch analysis of the yankees game and you will find that he pitched very well except that every mistake cost him dearly. He got away with nothing that day. His last game against the tigers was nothing short of very good against a quality opposition, where were you guys and your comments that day. i love the fact that you have him written off at 24. All i can say is again thank god no one takes you seriously. PS twinsfan46 you are aware that he was only a couple of innings short of being the iInternational league pitcher of the year which I believe is not that easy to do and would be welcomed by nearly 100 other pitchers across baseball. How bad must all these other guys be? (Sic)
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Falcon25 View Post
      Twinsfan46 and 3up3down - thank god no one takes you seriously. You look at a young kid and you ignore the indicators in his development such as improved performances late last year. Statistically he was the best starter in the twins line up in the last month of last season that's not to say that he was brilliant but he had some good outings against some good opposition. Go back and do a pitch by pitch analysis of the yankees game and you will find that he pitched very well except that every mistake cost him dearly. He got away with nothing that day. His last game against the tigers was nothing short of very good against a quality opposition, where were you guys and your comments that day. i love the fact that you have him written off at 24. All i can say is again thank god no one takes you seriously. PS twinsfan46 you are aware that he was only a couple of innings short of being the iInternational league pitcher of the year which I believe is not that easy to do and would be welcomed by nearly 100 other pitchers across baseball. How bad must all these other guys be? (Sic)
      So, practically every post you've written is about an Australian player...and you've slammed people who aren't seeing your point of view on him, including the one quoted here.

      Three questions::

      1. Are you Australian?

      if not

      2. Are you related to Hendricks?

      3. Do you think people may not take YOU seriously when all you do is comment just on Australian players (minus the one about Cole De Vries...after you brought up Hendricks on the same thread). Think maybe they see some bias there because of it?

      For the record, I haven't given up on Liam, but people have a right to wonder about him since he hasn't shown much yet in the majors. Of course he's young, and that's fine...but people have their right to question his ability.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      ML pitchers require one "dominant" pitch for long-term success. Most pitchers use a fastball of one sort or another. Then there are the breaking-ballers, the change-up guys, and finally the "trick" pitches (forkball, split-finger, etc.). Does Hendricks have a "dominant" pitch?
      The poster Falcon25 cited "...mistakes cost him dearly...". ML hitters do just that. I imagine Hendricks was developed to "pitch The Twins Way--attacking the strikezone mercilessly" to obtain low pitch counts via short plate appearances. This can work really well against lesser opposition--but breaks-down against the heavy-hitters of the major leagues because they thrive on "mistakes" and hit them very hard. I think that that is Hendricks "problem". Hendricks could plow-through minor-league hitters without developing/using a "dominant" (out) pitch, but lacking that arrow in his quiver, he struggles mightily at the major league level.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      He is a great example of "his stats are good, but maybe he's topped out. If so, we should trade him before everyone else finds out.....", I think. I hope I'm wrong, but he looks like a guy that is just good enough to be not quite good enough to start in the majors. Like I said, i hope I'm wrong.
    1. 3up3down's Avatar
      3up3down -
      Mr. Falcon25, people do take me very seroiusly, I am not down on hendricks , I , along with some others believe the twins other options are better.. yes he has pitched some good games , so have the others, they all have spots in the game where 3 or 4 pitches decides if you have a good or bad night...as far as being the best starter at the end of the season, ask any baseball guy & they will tell you dont put to much stock into spring training or sept stats...I have been a supporter for walters , i just think his pitches are better & he was the best the twins had for 4 games in may - june, but how much does that matter...of the 3 devries had the best year & should be ahead of hendricks. hendricks earned a shot from his AAA numbers , but he hasnt earned it in the bigs..devries & walters did..and i know walters numbers were not great , but they were pretty good until he got hurt & i dont believe he was right at the end of the season..he has looked good in spring & his pitches are moving & sinking & the groundballs are back..this is just my opinion but it is taken seroiusly be some...
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      All he needs to do is win a few games.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Top Gun View Post
      All he needs to do is win a few games.
      I was gonna say all he needs to do is pitch better :-)
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I was gonna say all he needs to do is pitch better :-)
      That was my original idea.....
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Tom Kelly recently gave an interview & said he was one of the few in the organization who was still high on Hendriks. That statement doesnt bode well.
      My prediction (if Diamond is ready for opening day) is they will send Hendriks to BOS for the rights to Ryan Pressley, so the Rule V pitcher isnt lost back to Sox.
      Team just doesnt value Liam & he will succeed somewhere.
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