Hendricks looks forward to bouncing back in 2022
With the way the calendar fell, Kyle Hendricks became the first Cubs starter to finish his season.
The finale went reasonably well. Hendricks pitched 5 scoreless innings, then gave up 2 runs in the sixth. He didn't get the win, but the Cubs did beat Pittsburgh 3-2, thanks to a 2-run double by Willson Contreras in the seventh.
But what to make of Hendricks' 2021 season? He finished with a 14-7 record, but the 4.77 ERA was easily the worst of his career.
"Clearly disappointing overall," Hendricks said after the game. "There was a good stretch there for a minute, but everything from the start just wasn't up to par for me. I learned a lot, every year you learn a lot about yourself. I'm just excited to disconnect for a little bit, get away, but then get back after it in the offseason."
Back in 2016, Hendrick went an entire season without giving up more than 4 earned runs in a start. This year, he had five outings with at least 7 earned runs allowed.
Hendricks had the worst month of his career in April with a 7.54 ERA, then topped it in August by posting a 7.81. September was nearly as bad, but Wednesday's performance helped keep his monthly ERA to 6.93.
In between all that, he won eight consecutive starts in May and June. Hendricks also went undefeated over 16 consecutive starts, winning 11 in a row. He went from May 9 to Aug. 12 without being tagged with a loss.
"I'm glad there were some positives there and overall, it was just really fun being part of this team," Hendricks said. "Seeing guys come up and get these opportunities; guys like Frank (Schwindel), Raffy (Ortega), Wiz (Patrick Wisdom); some of the young pitchers, what they've been able to do. So I've just really enjoyed watching them. Can't wait to see what's that like (next year)."
Hendricks, 31, is under contract for two more years at $14 million, then has a vesting option for 2024. Anything can happen, but it seems likely he'll be back with the Cubs next season. A better question is if he can regain the reliable, consistent performances from his past.
"My whole offseason will really be about getting myself ready, doing the things I need to do and correcting some things for sure," he said. "It was really fun pitching with the guys we had this year. A lot of us had very similar styles. We were able to learn a few things from each other."
As far as next year's rotation goes, Adbert Alzolay and Justin Steele seem likely to be in it, while the Cubs are expected to pursue one or two starters in free agency.
"I'm excited to see who it's going to be, who I'm going to work with, but I take the same approach no matter what for my starts," Hendricks said. "I want to be the guy for this team, take the ball every fifth day and be consistent, that's the No. 1 thing. So I've got to definitely be more consistent next year.
"I'll be watching (the Cubs offseason) real close, just like all of you guys. I'm going to be super excited to see where we're at, see what we set this ballclub up to be. But it will just kind of be from the outside, there's nothing I can do about it."