It feels like there’s some volatility in all of these, until you get to Kyle Hendricks. Since coming up full-time in 2015, Hendricks has put up 3.2 and 4.2 fWAR every season except ’17 when he was hurt for a month, and he would have then as well. His K/9 has been between 7.2 and 8.2. His BB/9 between 1.63 and 2.15. ERA never over 4.00, and not even over 3.50 since his rookie year. FIP never over four either. Hendricks might be the one Cub where you can definitely say what you’re going to get.

Kyle Hendricks 2019

30 starts, 177 innings

3.46 ERA   1.13 WHIP   3.61 FIP

7.63 K/9   1.63 BB/9

41.3 GB%   10.4 HR/FB

79 ERA-   4.1 fWAR

Lost in the Cubs mass pants-pissing in 2019 was that Hendricks might have had as good of a season as his Cy Young finalist year of 2016. His ERA didn’t approach that level, but his FIP did, his WAR did, and he walked far less hitters last year than he did in that campaign. He gave up four more homers, but with a vastly different and misbehaving baseball, so the 19 he gave up last year might be better than the 15 he gave up in ’16. And Hendricks put up those numbers while getting away from his grounder-heavy ways, and yet somehow still got a ton of soft contact with fly balls. Which normally would make you think he’s flirting with danger, except Hendricks never does.

YES! YES! YES!: Again, this best-case/worst-case scenarios for Kyle are a little silly, because you know pretty much what you’re getting. So in order to be on the high end of that window, he needs a touch of BABIP luck (but not a whole lot, given how he specializes in soft contact). He even got a touch unlucky last year with that .287 mark, as that’s ten points over his career BABIP against.

There’s been talk that Hendricks is in better shape this year and is throwing harder, which is fine as long as he doesn’t lose movement. But no pitcher is more attuned to his mechanics and stuff than Hendricks, so it’s unlikely he would sacrifice that for a couple more MPH. He’s given up a run in nine spring innings with 8 Ks and one walk, so all good there.

Hendricks has lost a little of his strikeouts the past couple seasons, so if he gains those back he could once again threaten the Cy party again. You know the walks aren’t coming.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: Anything that sends Kyle’s season off the rails has little to do with him. It could be rotten luck with contact or the defense behind him, but that’s unlikely in at least the infield. Hendricks saw his line-drive rate go up last year, but then again so did pretty much everyone. Maybe the greater amount of fly balls he gave up last year turn into homers simply because the gods are assholes, or weird Wrigley wind patters, or both.

Health isn’t a concern as other than 2017 Hendricks has always made 30 starts. Maybe added velocity does take off some movement, which keeps his pitches in the middle of the zone, which would be a problem. But Hendricks would probably just start it closer to the corners and still get movement to off the plate. It’s just hard to pinpoint how the floor would move from beneath him until age is a problem. Which it won’t be for a while.

DRAGON OR FICKLE?: Even I, the most skeptical of humans, have taken Hendricks at full value. He is an anomaly in today’s game, not just deriving success from pitching to contact and using his brain but massive success from it. It bears repeating: Since he started full-time in ’15, Hendricks in top-10 in ERA (min. 800 innings), FIP, and WAR. He’s been that good, and considering six or seven other pitchers in that list of 10 make $30M a year or thereabouts, Hendricks might just be the biggest bargain in the league right now.


Everything Else


SCHEDULE: Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday, Game 3 Sunday, Game 4 April 17th

We move to the Central, where we have a supposed “rivalry.” At least it is according to the Wild broadcast. When it isn’t the Hawks, of course. Watch any game against the Jets from the Minnesota side, and you’ll hear the Jets only referred to as “our great rivals.” I’m sure the Jets have no idea what they’re talking about. Because like, you could drive it if you really wanted to? Because they’re both frozen hellscapes? Because they’ve both been irrelevant for their entire existence? Probably the last one. Anyway, one of those teams is probably going to change that this time. Hint: it’s not the ones who wear green.

Goalies: The Wild didn’t get the other-worldly goaltending from The Doobie Brother that they usually do when they’re this high in the standings. He was just about league average overall, which is probably what he is. The problem for the Wild is that he’s been pretty putrid in the playoffs, though last year he simply just got out-dueled by Jay Gallon. And we should thank him for that, because it caused the Blues to trust Allen for another season and look where it got them. Dubs isn’t going to win this series, there’s a chance he might lose it, but most likely in the middle.

We don’t know anything about Connor Hellebuyck in the playoffs, because this is his first foray. But he was excellent in the regular season, and the Jets have so much firepower up front that he might not be required to do more than simply not lose it. If he does better than that, and the Jets simply don’t freeze under the bright lights, then things could get awfully silly for a while up in the Frozen Tundra With No Airport That’s Not Green Bay.

Defense: The Wild took a major hit when Ryan Suter broke his leg. While he might not be what he was, he’s still the their anchor. Without him, some combo of Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, and Jared Spurgeon is going to have to do the heavy lifting. All of these guys are good, and Spurgeon is more than that, but with their depth eroded and the Jets having at least 10 forwards who can hurt you, the problems are farther down the lineup. And no, Nick Seeler and and Nate Prosser aren’t going to do anything other than get caved in when they’re on the ice.

This might have been a problem before, but with the return of Trouba it won’t be this series. Keeping Byfuglien away from the hard stuff is what he’s built for, and if Trouba is near his best he can nullify just about any top line. Josh Morrissey has been a surprise, and Toby Enstrom could return during the series though he’ll miss Game 1. It’s not the best blue line in the division but it’s hardly embarrassing.

Forwards: Another huge advantage for the Jets. While Eric Staal had a revival season, and Mikaeal Granlund is great, and Jason Zucker had a breakout season, there’s just not enough here.  Mikko Koivu is going to have a hard time keeping up with Scheifele, Charlie Coyle is never going to be anything. Nino Neiderreiter couldn’t buy a bucket this year. The bottom six is going to be a real issue, even with Jordan Greenway now here.

Meanwhile, the Jets boast what might be the deepest crop of forwards around. Blake Wheeler is an under-the-radar Hart candidate. Scheifele is a monster. Kyle Connor could be rookie of the year. Ehlers and Laine are on the second line. Little and Perreault on the third. Adam Lowry is the egg-head’s case for Selke. There’s no let-up here. Every line they throw out should be better than whatever Gabby throws over the boards.

Prediction: Hockey can be strange. I don’t know if Paul Maurice remains an idiot or finally put it together this year, but he doesn’t have to do much to defeat Bruce Boudreau who manages every playoff series choking on a ham bone. Chase any sort of matchup or structure and you’re ahead of Gabby. Sure, Hellebuyck could lose it in his first playoff series. The sticks could go cold under actual expectations this time. Dubnyk I suppose could go nuts. But that’s a lot of motherfuckin’ ifs. Jets in five.