In game four, Blue Jays fans were handed a Royal slap in the face. A bad start by R.A. Dickey, allowing 5 runs over 1.2 innings, and some poor bullpen relief from LaTroy Hawkins, Ryan Tepera, and Mark Lowe, would result in a 14-2 Blue Jays loss. The one shining spot for the Jays in this game would be the long relief work of Liam Hendriks.
Hendriks pitched 4.1 innings of one hit scoreless ball, and with such an impressive outing, many fans were left wondering, “Why haven’t we seen more of Liam in the playoffs?” The 4.1 innings we saw out of Hendriks almost represents the entirety of Hendriks playoff workload, as Liam has only pitched 4.3 innings this postseason. Hendriks role has been somewhat confusing throughout the season, considering the year he’s been having. We also have to wonder what Hendriks role is going into the future.
Hendriks was born in Perth, located on the Western shores of Australia. At a young age Liam chose to play baseball instead of Australia’s national sport of Cricket. A multi-sport athlete throughout his high school career, Liam would excel at both baseball and Australian Rules Football (For those of you who are unaware was the Aussie rules are, it’s basically the NFL for crazy people). Both Liam’s father and grandfather played in the Western Australian Football League. Hendriks could have been drafted into the Aussie Football League, but chose to take the road to the show, signing with the Minnesota Twins after high school.
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Hendriks, in 2008, would pitch in the Claxton Shield, an annual baseball tournament in Australia. Pitching for the Perth Heat, Hendriks put up some amazing numbers, going 3-0 with a 1.90ERA winning the Claxton Shield Rookie of the Year Award. Hendriks would then be sidelined for the entire 2008 Minor League season due to a spine surgery.
Coming back in 2009, Hendriks would continue to have success rising up the ranks in the Twins organization. In 2011, he would pitch in both AA and AAA, even making some spot starts with the Twins. Liam would be named the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Showing significant improvement, Hendriks would finally crack the major league roster for an extended time in 2012. Making 16 starts at the Major League level, Hendriks would not see much success, pitching to a 5.59ER (-0.3 WAR), only working 85.1IP. In 2012-2013, he would be in and out of the Major League rotation, being labelled as a quad A player.
After a winter of crazy spending by the Twins, to make room for free agent Phil Hughes, Hendriks was designated for assignment. The Blue Jays would claim Hendriks off the waiver wire .(The Blue Jays would be the third team to claim Hendriks off waivers that offseason) and Hendriks would get a fresh start with the Bisons, pitching to some of his best minor league numbers. After posting a 2.19ERA in 108.1IP, Hendriks numbers wouldn’t go unnoticed, starting in the AAA All-Star Game. Hendriks’ stay in Buffalo wouldn’t last long, as he was traded to the Kansas City Royals in the deal for Danny Valencia.
Hendriks would pitch in the Royals minor league system for the remainder of 2014. In an odd reunion in 2015, Hendriks would be traded BACK to Toronto! After the whirlwind of transactions, it looks like in 2015 not only is Liam prepared to stay in Toronto but it seems like he has also found his game.
Liam has put up absolutely stellar numbers in 2015. The main difference this year, obviously, is that Hendriks has been shifted over to the bullpen.
*Liam Hendriks 2015 Stats All Numbers are Career Highs
Hendriks’ pitch repertoire includes a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and curveball. Every pitch this year has had a huge jump in velocity, an increase of an average 3.28mph with every pitch. Hendriks saw a major jump in his changeup, especially, an average of 4.3mph difference from this year to last year. This is most likely due to Hendriks believing that, in a reliever’s role, he can now use his pitches for more power coming into the game. With the velocity going up and his new role, the values in those pitches have skyrocketed.
Hendriks’ slider this year has jumped 5.1 wSL, being a plus pitch for the first time in his career, and his four-seam (which is his best pitch) has jumped from 0.9 wFB (barely a plus pitch in 2014) to 10.2 wFB in 2015. Hendriks’ ability to use these two pitches as effectively as he does, and the frequency he uses them, (66.9% of Hendriks pitches are his four-seam/slider combo) has been what makes him so deadly in that 6th-7th inning role he’s been in all season.
Hendriks is clearly having a career year out of the pen for the Blue Jays. His time in the bullpen is something we should see in the future, too, as Liam is under team control next year, before reaching arbitration in 2017. The Blue Jays pitching staff is going to go over some sort of remodelling in 2016, with only one pitcher in the current starting rotation locked up for next year.
Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez are complete wild cards in terms of ability or role, but if those two have good spring trainings, they will crack the starting rotation. It would be difficult to see the 26 year old Hendriks not be given some sort of promotion in the bullpen. Potentially inserting himself into the setup role, while Osuna closes. Hendriks numbers this year certainly point towards him being ready for more work.
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