Hendricks offspeed throws off timing
A month ago, you could’ve made the case that the Game 1 starters would’ve been Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. However, Hendricks has been the team’s best pitcher in the second half (2.19 ERA over his final 13 starts).
On Wednesday, during the Cubs workout session, Maddon explained the decision to start Hendricks today and part of the reason why how he has had success against the Washington Nationals
Now, Hendricks doesn’t rely on the strikeout to get outs (72 in 78.1 innings in the second half), but he is able to generate plenty of groundballs. This season, opponents have hit ground balls over 50% of the time (according to Fangraphs).
Over the past three seasons, Hendricks’ average fastball velocity has gone down from about 88 miles-per-hour to 86 mph. The key pitch for him is going to be his changeup, which he used 28% of the time this year (Both numbers courtesy of Fangraphs).
Speaaking of that changeup, there were only three extra bases hit against that pitch in the second half and opponents struck out 39 times (Brooks Baseball). With the lack of velocity on his fastball, that actually sets up his offspeed to be that much more effective.
Hendricks has five career starts against the Nats and is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA. That is a good track record, but he did lose on August 4 at Wrigley when he gave up three runs on five hits. All three runs that were scored came on home runs hit by Daniel Murphy, who loves facing the Cubs.
While Hendricks has a good sample size against Washington, keep an eye today on whether or not his changeup takes the bats out of their rhythm.