Every one of Hendriks’ main pitches saw a jump in velocity between 2018 and 2019 (82.3 mph vs. 84.32 mph), but none of his pitches have changed more than curveball over the past decade. Back when he pitched for the Twins, he averaged a 73.9 mph curveball at his peak, more than 10 mph slower than his current offering. He’s also throwing more often than he has since the very beginning of his career, with a 7.51% usage rate compared to a 1.8% usage rate in 2018.
Hendriks enjoyed the best season of his career in 2019 after taking over the closer role once Blake Treinen went down with an injury, in no small part because of his improved fastball. It became a heavy feature of his arsenal since joining the Athletics in 2016—66.3% usage rate in 2015 with the Blue Jays compared to a 75.8% usage rate in 2016—and reached new levels in 2019 with an average velocity of 96.44 mph compared to a previous high of 94.7 in 2017.
Hendriks supplanted Blake Treinen as the A’s closer in 2019 and his slider was the main reason why. A phenomenal 55.4 K% thanks to painting the corner away and down from righties, the pitch saw out the season supporting a .149 xWOBA.
In a word, Hendriks’ fastball in 2018 can be best described as “meh”. Sure, it comes in hard enough. That’s not the issue. Hitters didn’t miss it as much as in 2017 and generally found success when they made contact, too. hendriks could find that magic again in 2019, but he’s shown in years past—particularly 2015 v. 2016—it can either be very good or very bad. Not ideal with the pitch you throw most.
Although he generated more swing-and-misses with his slider in 2018 than in 2017, hitters had a better average and BABIP against Hendriks’ slider in 2018. Leaving it up in the zone too often can certainly do that. It’s without question his strikeout pitch and one he’ll continue to lean on.
While there are some pitchers who’ve turned the sinker into a swing-and-miss pitcher, Hendriks’ is more old school. he generates plenty of ground balls with it, but hitters tend to find success against it too often.
Hendriks nearly abandoned his changeup in 2018. Hitters do anything against it, but they have when he’s thrown it more often in the past. He’d be better off dumping this or his curve altogether to go with the other weapons in his arsenal.
Hendriks moved away from his hook in 2018. Understandably so, too. Though he didn’t get burned by it the eight times he threw it in 2018, it’s been an ineffective pitch for him in years past. he probably won’t use it much in 2019 either.