Thursday, August 28, 2014

Contemplating Liam Hendriks

Liam Hendriks threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 25
hitters he faced Wednesday night.
Liam Hendriks made 28 starts for the Twins over a three-year stretch before they cut him loose last winter (to make room on the roster for free-agent signee Phil Hughes). None of those starts were as good as his outting Wednesday night for the Royals against the Twins. He took a perfect game into the fifth inning and he didn't allow a run until the seventh.

Hendriks didn't get the win, but he was very effective.

This gave my (rather Twins-oriented) Twitter feed a theme for the night: How can Liam Freaking Hendriks be shutting out the Twins?

Well, there are a number of reasons. Hendriks (and Hughes) benefited from a generous outside corner, for one thing.

But another factor in why Hendriks appeared so much better in his Kansas City debut than he ever did with the Twins: The Royals put a high-quality defense in the field behind him. The Twins seldom did.

For example: Hendriks' final start for the Twins came on Sept. 16, 2013. He didn't make it out of the first inning: two outs, seven runs allowed.

The Twins outfield for that game: Alex Presley in center, flanked by Oswaldo Arcia in left and Chris Herrmann in right. The infield: Chris Parmelee at first, Eduardo Escobar at second, Trevor Plouffe at third, Pedro Florimon at short. Josmil Pinto caught.

The defense Kansas City put behind Hendriks Wednesday night was, in my estimation, markedly better at every position except first base and maybe second base. I'm not saying Hendriks was good that night against the White Sox; I will say that defense, and particularly the outfielders, wasn't going to do him any favors -- certainly not of the kind that Alex Gordon did with a catch off Kurt Suzuki.

I don't know that Hendriks is going to be an effective major league starter. I do know that his minor league numbers are very good, and I have long believed that the Twins handled him far too impatiently, particularly in 2012.

It's taken four years of sporadic starts, but the Rule of 30 finally applies to Hendriks; Wednesday was his 32nd big-league start. The Rule of 30 says you give a pitcher 30 starts before you decide if he can succeed in the majors. Right or wrong, the Twins were never willing to go more than a month with him in the rotation.

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