On October 1st, with the season on the line Bob Melvin called upon Liam Hendriks. Under normal circumstances this would not be unusual. Hendriks had already established himself as one of baseballs best relief pitchers. But these were not normal circumstances. This was Game 3 of the AL Wildcard Series, do or die, and the man the Oakland A’s called their closer had just throw a whopping 49 pitches the day before. The 31-year Aussie did not back down. After allowing the the first batter to reach with a single Hendriks promptly struck out the next three batters. He celebrated with a thunderous roar and just like that he had knocked the best offense in the American League out of the playoffs. Flash forward three months and Hendriks is joining forces with the same team he helped eliminate, the Chicago White Sox.
His clutch performance did not go unnoticed and his arrival on the Southside has his new teammates giddy. Aaron Bummer has been the White Sox best reliever the past couple seasons. He spoke about his admiration for Hendricks on NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox Talk Podcast
“That guy’s got balls, just to see his fire,just watch that.That’s incredible.That’s what i want to be able to do. I want to throw 50 pitches then go out and do that the next day, and the guy went out there and did it.”
South Side Mentality
Liam Hendiks is the perfect closer for the White Sox. He embodies the Southside of Chicago. Tough, hardworking and a little crazy. His 49 pitch outing was the the only time he laid it on the line for his team. In Game 3 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, Hendriks rose to the occasion once again. With the score knotted at 7 apiece Henriks entered the game in the seventh inning. He went three innings, struck out four batters and secured the win in the ninth inning.
The road to becoming an elite closer was not an easy one for Hendriks. In 2018 he found himself playing the role of opener in the Wildcard game against the Yankees. He allowed a two run homer to Aaron Judge and was tagged with the loss. Before that he had bounced around the league playing for the Twins,Blue Jays,Royals, then back to the Blue Jays. Finally he found a home in Oakland and after pitching in mixed roles from starter to reliever he finally found his niche in the ninth inning. In 2019 he made the All-Star game for the first time and took home the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year award thanks in part to his 1.78 ERA and 25 saves. He proved that season was no fluke by following up that performance with another sub 2 ERA in 2020.
Part of what has made Hendriks so successful is his attitude when he takes the mound. When he takes the ball he describes himself as an “egotistical narcissist”. Essentially he believes he can throw any pitch past any hitter at any time. When he fires a fastball, he releases it with conviction. He discussed this in an interview with Pitching Ninja.
“Im just going out there It’s Me vs Him, theres no number i don’t care who is in the box i am going to beat that guy in that specific at bat. I know i’m better than him”
He also described his approach to free agency. Saying no matter how much he signs for he wants to make it look like a bargain. Rick Hahn sure hopes that will be the case.
That edge and fearlessness is exactly what the White Sox need in the back end of their bullpen. With the game on the line they have pitcher who won’t back down. MLB Network already named him as the best relief pitcher in baseball. Hendriks is not afraid to offer a similar sentiment, after all he is an egotistical narcissist and maybe that is not such a bad thing.