Chicago White Sox: Here’s the concern with Liam Hendriks

May 29, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Liam Hendriks (31) reacts after delivering a final out against the Baltimore Orioles during the seventh inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Liam Hendriks (31) reacts after delivering a final out against the Baltimore Orioles during the seventh inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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2021 has been a magical season for the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, but within their Iowan debut emerged a possible major red flag for their bullpen as we come down the stretch of the regular season.

The Sox bullpen is absolutely loaded; there’s no doubt about that. But Thursday’s Field of Dreams game against the Yankees revealed what could turn out to be a major hindrance to that loaded bullpen group. That possible hindrance being of course their best reliever and closer in Liam Hendriks who blew a 3-run lead in the ninth thanks to two home runs allowed to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

The Chicago White Sox have a potential question mark in Liam Hendriks

But it’s not just what was seen at Field of Dreams that should leave the Chicago White Sox a little worried about their horse. I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern with the Aussie that catches my attention.

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I look at Liam’s stuff and he’s obviously got the explosive fastball with well-above-average spin, and his body language out there clearly gives him a boost in the hitters’ eyes because you’re not just getting his fastball with really good spin, but you’re also getting that extra oomph and burst of energy coming at you the way Liam carries himself in-between pitches and after strikeouts.

That energy can work for or against you as a pitcher, even more specifically as a closer because if and when your gas tank gets emptied mid-inning, it’s hard to recover- unlike a starter who is conditioned to recover on the spot better. I like a lot of energy out on the mound…………I mean………as long as it doesn’t go too far, Amir Garrett.

But something has been nagging me with Hendriks this year that I haven’t exactly been able to put my finger on until recently and that is his fastball command is not what it’s been in years past- certainly not in the years past that have allowed him to reach the pinnacle he’s at now as one of the league’s premier closers.

When I look over at his Statcast numbers (once again, thank you nerds over at Baseball Savant), two glaring things that stand out to me are his curveball spin revolutions which have never really been that strong, and then correspondingly his barrel percentile rank among qualifying pitchers which I believe to be in a direct correlation.

Being that his curveball isn’t very high up on the rpm charts, he’s forced to lean on his fastball more which he throws about 69% of the time this season.

Now, his fastball may be explosive with great spin and all these good things, but when it’s used as much as it is, eventually guys will be able to lock onto it. And when you don’t locate it that well, you’re bound to give up some big power numbers, which is what I believe is happening this year with Hendriks.

His barrel percent currently ranks in the 6th percentile among all other qualifying pitchers in MLB. That is, in my opinion, due to a combination of poorer secondary pitches, an over-usage of his primary pitch, and mistakes being made with that primary pitch.

Hendriks has been rather “cheeky” with his fastball this year as the Aussies would probably say in that he’s not locating as he has been in years past and that is allowing his ball to get hit about as well as it ever has been in his career.

The hard-hit/barreled ball and has Liam Hendriks’ number this year and that may not bode too well for the White Sox in the midst of a playoff run.

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Perhaps I’m looking too far into it. After all, Hendriks’s teammate Craig Kimbrel had command issues in 2018 and the Red Sox still won a World Series. But Hendriks’s fastball this year has definitely proven to not be as crisp as it’s been in years past.

Something to keep an eye on.