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It turns out the reason Kyle Hendricks has a bad road record is pretty simple

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One easy rotation decision could avoid this issue.

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

It’s been something of a mystery, the difference between Kyle Hendricks’ record at Wrigley Field and away from it since the beginning of 2019.

To review:

Hendricks at home, 2019: 14 starts, 92⅔ innings, 2.04 ERA, 0.874 WHIP
Hendricks on road, 2019: 16 starts, 84⅓ innings, 5.02 ERA, 1.411 WHIP

This huge differential has continued this year:

Hendricks at home, 2020: five starts, 35⅔ innings, 2.27 ERA, 0.813 WHIP
Hendricks on road, 2020: four starts, 22⅓ innings, 5.24 ERA, 1.522 WHIP

Overall for the two seasons:

Home: 19 starts, 128⅓ innings, 2.10 ERA, 0.857 WHIP
Road: 20 starts, 106⅔ innings, 5.06 ERA, 1.434 WHIP

That’s Cy Young level performance at Wrigley Field, DFA candidate on the road.

What’s going on here?

I went through a whole bunch of ideas in thinking about how to approach this, from days of rest to even the idea of checking out the distance from home plate to the backstop in different ballparks to see if that made some sort of difference from a visual perspective standpoint. (It doesn’t.)

So, again, what’s going on here?

The answer was somewhat surprising to me: It’s Great American Ballpark.

Yes, it’s that simple. I looked at data for the last two years, since that’s when this home/road issue was exacerbated, and since we have information at least on Central Division ballparks for 2020.

Hendricks on road, in Cincinnati, 2019-20: four starts, 21 innings, 8.14 ERA, 1.667 WHIP
Hendricks on road, other Central parks, 2019-20: nine starts, 48 innings, 2.81 ERA, 0.917 WHIP

So it’s not road games. It’s Cincinnati road games. And it’s not the Reds, because he dominates them at Wrigley Field just like any other team:

Hendricks vs. Reds, career, at GABP: 10 starts, 55⅓ innings, 6.67 ERA, 1.518 WHIP
Hendricks vs. Reds, career, at Wrigley: nine starts, 53⅓ innings, 2.03 ERA, 1.069 WHIP

At this point these aren’t small sample sizes, and since Kyle’s numbers against the Reds at Wrigley Field are comparable to his overall home numbers, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that it’s GABP that’s dragging down his overall road numbers. Here are the 10 career starts Kyle’s made at GABP:

Rk Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR UER Pit Str
1 2020-08-28 CHC CIN L 5-6 GS-6, L 6.0 10 5 5 0 6 2 0 98 73
2 2020-07-29 CHC CIN L 7-12 GS-5, L 4.1 7 6 6 2 3 1 0 85 56
3 2019-08-10 CHC CIN L 1-10 GS-3, L 2.2 12 7 7 0 2 3 0 67 50
4 2019-05-14 CHC CIN W 3-1 GS-9, W 8.0 3 1 1 1 7 1 0 97 67
5 2018-06-21 CHC CIN L 2-6 GS-6, L 5.2 3 4 4 4 5 0 0 89 54
6 2018-05-19 (1) CHC CIN L 4-5 GS-6 5.0 6 4 3 2 6 0 1 71 48
7 2016-10-02 CHC CIN W 7-4 GS-5 5.0 6 4 4 1 4 0 0 88 57
8 2016-06-29 CHC CIN W 9-2 GS-7, W 6.2 8 2 2 2 5 1 0 117 80
9 2015-07-22 (1) CHC CIN L 1-9 GS-6, L 6.0 7 5 5 2 9 1 0 99 65
10 2014-07-10 CHC CIN W 6-4 GS-6 6.0 5 4 4 3 7 1 0 95 63
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 9/9/2020.

There are a couple of good outings in there, but the rest range from mediocre to downright awful. Incidentally, that 2014 game was Kyle’s MLB debut.

One more set of numbers for you:

Hendricks, career, in all road games OTHER than at GABP: 76 starts, 439 innings, 3.40 ERA, 1.164 WHIP

The good news (at least for 2020) is that the Cubs don’t make any more trips to GABP this year. Hendricks’ four remaining starts should be at Milwaukee (Saturday), vs. Cleveland at Wrigley (September 16), at Pittsburgh (September 21) and at the White Sox (September 26). The Cubs can do that they use the two remaining off days to skip the fifth turn in the rotation for a while, which they could, since they don’t really have a fifth starter right now with Tyler Chatwood and Jose Quintana injured.

Kyle has a 2.97 lifetime ERA at Miller Park (11 starts), a 3.10 lifetime ERA at PNC Park (10 starts) and a 4.79 lifetime ERA on the South Side (four starts), though that’s skewed by one really bad outing in 2015 — his ERA there is 3.11 in the other three starts. So Kyle could have a strong finish to 2020.

Why does Kyle Hendricks have a bad record at GABP? I have no idea, but this anomaly to his usual effectiveness exists, so my advice to manager David Ross — not that he listens to me — is to try to arrange the rotation in 2021 so that Hendricks doesn’t pitch when the Cubs are in Cincinnati. Kyle, and the team, would benefit.