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12 Days of Cubsmas: Nine strikeouts in a Kyle Hendricks Opening Day start

The Professor started the Cubs season with a gem

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Opening Day might be better than Christmas for me. There is so much hope and possibility. The long wait of the offseason is finally over. The bunting goes up all over Wrigleyville (yes, houses also put up bunting sometimes, because Wrigleyville).

It is a beautiful thing to walk up to the old ballpark at the corner of Clark and Addison, hearing the strains of the organ playing and wondering what witticism Murphy’s Bleachers will put on their board for that first game.

Even in 2020, maybe especially in 2020, Opening Day felt like a holiday. Admittedly, there were no crowds, just a handful of bleacher bums hanging out at Ballhawk Corner, hoping they could snag a souvenir. But with everyday impacted by stay-at-home orders the return of baseball was such a treat.

Kyle Hendricks got the ball on Opening Day. The player we call the Professor is as stoic as they come. Game Seven of the World Series didn’t rattle him at all, and neither did toeing the rubber on the strangest Opening Day in modern history.

Let’s be really clear about something - Kyle Hendricks is criminally underrated by baseball and some of the stats sabermetricians love. FIP and DRA don’t particularly like him because he pitches to too much contact, but the results speak for themselves:

In 2020 among qualified starters, he was tied for 17th-best in the league in WAR among pitchers, 13th in ERA, 3rd in innings pitched, and 1st in BB/9.

But on Opening Day he found another level that may be my favorite mode of Kyle Hendricks — the mode where he has ridiculous swing and miss stuff as he cruises to a complete game shutout.

The pitcher many compare to Hall of Famer Greg Maddux missed a Maddux by 3 pitches as he just baffled the Brewers — striking out nine [VIDEO].

I also just couldn’t get enough of this postgame interview. I mean, it’s well known that Kyle Hendricks only has one mood. In case you are unfamiliar with this meme, this is Kyle Hendricks:

The many moods of Kyle Hendricks

So it was amazing to see Hendricks laughing, smiling, and joking around with the guys who threw his ice bath a little too low [VIDEO].

Even with the current “for sale” sign out at the Cubs Front Office, Hendricks should be a safe bet to anchor the Cubs rotation going forward. After all, the return the Cubs should demand for having a top 20 pitcher in baseball locked up through 2024 should be astronomical.

Here’s hoping Kyle gets the ball again on Opening Day at Wrigley Field, this time with a few socially distant and vaccinated fans in the stands to appreciate his craft.

On the ninth Day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me: nine strikeouts in a Kyle Hendricsk Opening Day start, eight different starting pitchers in 2020, seven incredible Len Kasper calls, six Cubs players with WAR over 1, five strikeouts in an Alec Mills no-hitter, a four game delay in the season due to COVID-19, a three game lead to win the division in 2020, two first round draft picks non-tendered and one World Series ring in the Theo Epstein Era.