Potential Twins Bullpen Target: Liam Hendriks, RHP, Athletics
Image courtesy of © John Hefti-USA TODAY SportsLiam Hendriks’ time with the Twins came to an end after the 2013 season, when they designated him for assignment to make room for new free agent signee Phil Hughes. Hendriks spent the next year bouncing around among a number of organizations, and wound up making six combined starts at the MLB level as a member of both the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. In 2015, the Blue Jays transitioned Hendriks to the bullpen, and that is where his career took off. From 2011 through 2014, Hendriks made 39 appearances (34 starts) at the MLB level. In that time he had a 5.92 ERA (5.05 FIP), with a 1.55 WHIP, 5.87 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, and 1.57 HR/9 in 188 and 2/3 innings. Since his move to the bullpen in 2015, Hendriks has a 3.33 ERA (2.84 FIP), with a 1.21 WHIP, 10.12 K/9, 2.60 BB/9, and 0.69 HR/9 in 259 and 2/3 innings. In 2019, Hendriks has taken his game to a whole new level, as his 1.49 ERA ranks 13th among all qualified relievers in major league baseball.
So how was Hendriks able to make such a drastic improvement from the pitcher we saw in a Twins uniform just a few years prior? The first thing Hendriks did was add velocity to his fastball. Here is a chart showing Hendriks average fastball velocity per season.
While it is expected for many pitchers to get a velocity jump when moving to the pen, it is rare to see them add more than 3 MPH, like Hendriks did when he made the move. In 2019, Hendriks' average fastball velocity of 95.6 MPH, is in the 87th percentile among all MLB pitchers who have thrown at least 250 pitches this season. That’s a big improvement from the soft throwing righty that he was as a starter.
Another thing that Hedriks has done over the last few seasons is phase out his sinker. While he was a starter, Hendriks’ sinker was his primary pitch, throwing it nearly 40 percent of the time, while his four-seamer was a less commonly used pitch, throwing it a little more than 25 percent of the time. In 2017, the Oakland Athletics told Hendriks to move away from that pitch, and in 2019 it is essentially no longer a part of his pitching arsenal (thrown on just 2.4 percent of pitches this year, compared to 64.9 percent for his four-seamer).
One thing that will be monitored over the next month is if the Athletics decide to become sellers at the trade deadline. As of Monday morning, the Athletics are just 1.5 games back of the Cleveland Indians for the second Wild Card spot. However, per Fangraphs, their playoff odds stand at just 8 percent.
Hendriks is currently pitching on a 1-year deal worth $2.15 million dollars. This means if the Twins acquire Hendriks, he won’t make much of an impact at all to their pocket book or future plans financially.
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