Kyle Hendricks Has Two Changeups

It’s easy to dismiss the Cubs starter for Game Three, Kyle Hendricks. I did it earlier today, when I called him a two-pitch pitcher. I mean, he throws a cutter and a curve about 10% of the time combined, but both pitches are fairly substandard by whiffs and grounders, and with two strikes, they all but disappear. He doesn’t have much faith in them.

He can locate his sinker well, though, and has a good change. In fact, his changeup whiff percentage this year is second only to Cole Hamels‘ among starters that have thrown the pitch more than 150 times. So you could call him a two-pitch guy.

Except that he has two changeups.

Take a look. I filtered out the changeups over 85 mph because they are most likely slow sinkers. The velocity data doesn’t help a ton, but by movement, you can see it. Two distinct clusters.

If we were to name the two, we might name one the Cut Change, and the other the Fade Change. Let’s sum up those two pitches by movement and results so we can get a better sense of them. Let’s call the zone between -3 and -4 x-movement the no-fly zone. Pitches that got more arm-side run went into the Fade basket, and the everything that got more glove-side movement than -3 went into the Cut basket.

Kyle Hendricks‘ Two Changeups Against League Norms
Velocity X-Mov Y-Mov swSTR%
Hendricks Fade Change 80.8 -6.7 4.5 21.4%
Hendricks Cut Change 79.5 -0.7 5.4 22.4%
Average Righty Change 83.7 -6.7 4.1 13.7%
Average Righty Cutter 88.6 1.4 5.8 9.1%
Average Righty Slider 84.3 2.8 1.2 14.4%
SOURCE: PITCHf/x
x-mov is in inches, with negative denoting movement towards the righty’s arm-side
y-mov is also in inches, with zero denoting the ball thrown without backspin
swSTR% is whiffs divided by pitches

Hendricks has a conventional change that gets unconventional whiffs, perhaps because he shows identical arm speed or has some deception in his delivery. By movement, it’s almost exactly average at least — it’s a little slower than most changeups, but so is his 89 mph fastball.

Where he separates himself is with the Cut Change, which has a combination of movement and velocity that makes it hard to classify. By movement, it looks like a cutter — almost straight, with about the same sink as his sinker. But cutters are usually about two miles slower than a pitcher’s fastball, while this Cut Change is almost 10 mph slower than Hendricks’ fastball. The slider doesn’t really fit the Cut Change by either velocity or movement, but it is closer on velocity at least. If you called his Cut Change a slutter, you might best get across what he’s doing with the pitch.

Let’s take a look at good examples of both. The Fade Change is on the left, the Cut Change is on the right. I searched for extreme examples of each so that we could best see the difference, so the one on the left had 11 inches of arm-side fade, while the one on the right had two inches of glove-side cut.

HendricksFadeChangeHendricksCutChange

You’d be forgiven for calling the Cut Change a slider. It’s a little slower than your traditional slider, without as much vertical break as most sliders, but it looks a bit like a slider.

But, then again, does it matter? Call it what you will, it’s a different pitch. Suddenly, Kyle Hendricks is a three-pitch guy, with an elite change, a good slider, and good command of a good sinker. That sounds a little better already.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Kyle Kendrick
6 years ago

Heard Hendricks is thinking of changing his name. I wonder why?