by, 09-25-2012 at 06:01 PM (1113 Views)
It is easy to despair over Liam Hendriks after starts like the one he turned in on Monday night against the Yankees, when he coughed up four homers en route to his eighth loss in 15 tries for the Twins this year.
Certainly the right-hander has offered little cause for encouragement here in his first extended exposure to the majors, but we shouldn't let these rocky outings completely sour us on his long-term outlook.
Earlier this month, Aaron Gleeman drew a comparison on his blog between Hendriks and former Twin Brad Radke. When Radke first stepped onto the scene back in 1995, his performance was similar to what we've seen from Hendriks thus far. He gave up tons of hits, tons of homers and looked generally hopeless. Of course, Radke went on to have a pretty decent career.
I was struck by another more recent example of a player who, like Hendriks, put up ridiculous numbers in the minors despite an underwhelming arsenal and got knocked around in his first taste of the majors. That would be Kevin Slowey.
Compare the numbers from Slowey's rookie season in 2007 to the ones Hendriks has produced this year:
Player IP ERA K BB Opp OPS HR Slowey 66.2 4.73 47 11 .850 16 Hendriks 78.1 6.09 47 24 .914 17
Granted, Hendriks' production looks pretty bad even in comparison to Slowey's uninspiring debut. But the two shared the same principal problem – a proneness to having their mediocre offerings deposited in the bleachers. Slowey was even more vulnerable to homers than Hendriks, which is saying something given that the latter's HR rate would translate to a 44 long balls allowed in a 200-inning season.
Slowey's initial struggles in the big leagues gave him plenty to work on during the offseason, and he came back to put together a fine season as a 24-year-old in 2008, posting a 3.99 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 123-to-24 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. He cut his HR/9 rate from 2.2 to 1.2.
Hendriks is 23 years old, the same age as Slowey was in '07. He similarly needs to make adjustments and find a way to make his stuff work against MLB hitters, the way it has against hitters at all levels in the minors.
If he can bounce back next year with numbers anywhere close to the ones Slowey was able to produce in his sophomore season, it would be a huge boon for Minnesota's shaky rotation.