For the second consecutive season, Liam Hendriks has gotten off to a rocky start. Last April he blew two saves and owned a 4.35 ERA. He also gave up four home runs, which was the highest monthly total he allowed during the 2021 season.
This year he owns a 5.40 ERA in five appearances. Hendriks has allowed at least one base runner in four of those five appearances. On Opening Day he served up a game-tying home run resulting in a blown save.
This is not a reflection of who Liam Hendriks is as a pitcher. He is consistently ranked as one of the top relievers in baseball. Last season he earned AL Reliever of the Month honors in October and May. He was also named to his second All-Star team and finished the season with an American League-best 39 saves.
So why has he struggled in consecutive opening months? Inconsistencies in his delivery. According to Jay Cuda Hendriks has been tipping his pitches. During his delivery he keeps his breaking balls concealed in his glove before he releases them. However, when he is throwing his fastball it keeps it further away from his glove at an angle where the hitter can see it.
liam hendriks is "tipping" his pitches this season. same as last yr before he fixed it.
-on breaking balls the batter doesn't see ball during his delivery
-on fastballs liam shows the hitter the ball first
made pic below (all clips from this yr) to show what i'm talking about pic.twitter.com/BGjJ5vYVdB
— Jay Cuda (@JayCuda) April 19, 2022
He had the same problem at the beginning of last year before he quickly corrected it and turned his season around.
There is a reason he is the two-time defending relief pitcher of the year. He has electric stuff. His arsenal includes a blazing 98 mph fastball and a filthy slider that has earned him the nickname “South Slydah”.
But it doesn’t matter how hard you throw your fastball to a major league if the opposing hitter knows it is coming. Hence why opponents are hitting .423 off of Hendriks. Opponents are also hitting .500 off of Hendrik’s fastball and .667 off his curveball. Meanwhile, his barrel percentage ranks in the bottom 10th percentile according to Baseball Savant proving opponents are seeing the ball very well when he is on the mound.
There is a good chance that pitching coach, Ethan Katz, has already noticed this trend with the amount of data and video at his disposal. However, neither the coaching staff nor Hendriks seems concerned at this point.
“He is on the right track; he’s right where he needs to be,” bullpen coach Curt Hasler told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday. “He has a real good grasp on things.”
The White Sox closer agreed.
“I’m just not getting the fastball after into the right the right location,” Hendriks told reporters Saturday. “That seems to be the issue I’m going through right now.”