I’ll just put this out there…I’m a PROUD Cubs’ fan. And not just because they’re doing well this year. Nope. I’m not one of those bandwagon fans that’s not hopped on the Cub’s train in Chicago. I have been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember, so of course I’m happy when I see headlines like this while scrolling through my Twitter feed daily.
It’s been 108 years since the Cubs’ last World Series win. That’s way to long, and Manager Joe Maddon knows that. But I don’t think that’s what his club house is focusing on. What I think has made the Cubs so successful this year is that they are focusing on one game at a time…taking this stride day-by-day while trusting in their manager. Over the last few years, Maddon has made sure that his guys are relaxed and having fun, enjoying the game they (and Chicago) love so much. He’s also added depth to his bench and starters, rotating players to as many as four different positions. As Tom Verducci points out in his Sports Illustrated article, Maddon has also added depth to his bullpen and Kyle Hendricks is part of that depth.
Hendricks is Hernandez because, although Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are the nominal aces, he can beat any pitcher in any game. His stuff is that good.
Hendricks, 26, has thrown 2,514 pitches this year—not one of them has been as fast as the average big league fastball, 92 mph. But don’t let anybody tell you that he has fringe stuff just because he lacks velocity. His stuff is nasty. He has precise mechanics that allow him to repeat his delivery with minimal effort, which leads to impeccable command. Moreover, Hendricks throws pitches that are unlike almost anything hitters see. He actually throws his trademark sinker with slider spin—a hitter can see a slider’s tell-tale dot as the baseball whirls toward the plate—giving it unusual movement. He also has the best changeup in baseball.
I, for one, have become an Arrieta fan, but I love the strength of the entire bullpen. They also possess MLB’s best defense, which I partially attribute to Maddon’s rotation style and the fact that he gives his starters time off while playing the bench. It’s smart. The bench wants time to play and the starters need breaks. Everyone gets experience and everyone wins. He’s also bringing up guys from the Triple A Iowa team, scouting what he’s dealing with they need anyone at any given time.
The Cubs are taking the league by storm this year and it could (should) pay off. As Verducci points out in his article, there are no obvious flaws and on paper this Cubs have every reason to make it and win a championship this year. But, I prefer to not put the cart in front of the horse and am, too, taking this season day-by-day. Ask me how I feel about their chances come October.