Cubs

Kyle Hendricks is off to a better start to his career than Clayton Kershaw and Nolan Ryan

kyle_hendricks_career_start_slide.jpg
AP

Kyle Hendricks is off to a better start to his career than Clayton Kershaw and Nolan Ryan

While Cubdom determines if Kyle Hendricks should start Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, a Twitter user pointed out just how impactful the 27-year-old starting pitcher has been.

After Hendricks tossed five shutout innings Thursday night in St. Louis, his career ERA dipped to 2.94 in 100 career outings (99 starts).

That's a better mark than some of the greatest pitchers to even play the game, including Clayton Kershaw, Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux:

It's not the first time Hendricks has bested Kershaw, having taken down the Los Angeles Dodgers ace in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS at Wrigley Field, clincing the Cubs' first pennant in 71 years.

Of course, there is one stark contrast: Hendricks made his 100 appearances from age 24 to 27. Kershaw, on the other hand, made his 100th career big-league appearance at age 23. Maddux was also 23 while Ryan and Clemens were 24.

In the seven years and 191 games since Kershaw's 100th appearance, he has posted a ridiculous 2.08 ERA and 0.911 WHIP while striking out 10.1 batters per nine innings.

Still, not a bad start to the MLB career for Hendricks, a guy who was never considered one of the game's top prospects and morphed from a No. 5 starter to lead the league in ERA last season.

Through his 100 career games, Hendricks is 38-22 with a 1.098 WHIP and 507 strikeouts in 590 innings.

Javy Baez, the Cubs' versatile King of Swag

Javy Baez, the Cubs' versatile King of Swag

Even his teammates are having a hard time wrapping their minds around Javier Baez, the farmer.

Anthony Rizzo asked the flashy infielder before one of the panels this weekend at Cubs Convention, “What is it you do exactly? Feed chickens?”

The exchange garnered a good laugh from the crowd, but let’s be honest: only Baez could make feeding chickens look as cool as feeding a double play ball at Wrigley. Having asked at least 10 different Cubs players this weekend which teammate has the most swag, it was always Baez. And there was never any hesitation. 

Like the bling that hangs around his MLB logo-tatted neck, Baez dazzles on the field as well. His tags are a thing of beauty. You can just imagine young ballplayers around Chicago imitating the swipe, much like a Michael Jordan fadeaway jumper. Whether manning second or short, the 25 year-old All-Star has become a must-see defensive player.

Last season Baez took over at shortstop as Addison Russell dealt with a strained right foot/plantar fasciitis problem. In 30 games Baez thrived at his natural position, so much so he left some wondering if the Cubs would consider flipping Russell back to second base.

Baez has the more traditional, powerful shortstop arm, but Theo Epstein will tell you when you look at Russell’s defensive rankings compared to other shortstops, he’s a special player in his own right as well.

One thing’s for sure: the Cubs are fortunate to have that kind of depth up the middle. Joe Maddon made it clear last September that without the play of Baez, it’s doubtful the team would have been in position to clinch the division.

“We have two legitimate shortstops," Maddon said. "It’s very unusual to have that.”

Sure, a great problem to have. But how does it play out for the Cubs when all is said and done?

Does Baez take over at short with Russell moving to second, or is it Maddon having a tough conversation with Ben Zobrist and plugging No. 9 in as his everyday second baseman? There's Ian Happ, too. Is he the Cubs' second baseman of the future with Russell/Baez being the trade chip that lands a frontline starter?

All viable options, but just for fun in the video above we put Baez on the spot at Cubs Convention and asked him: Are you a shortstop playing second, or a second baseman playing short?”

He flashed a big grin and said a second baseman playing short. In other words, he gets it.

His bling doesn’t blind him from being a team player. "El Mago," the magician, knows his time is coming. A process that will begin in a few weeks when the Cubs report to Mesa.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

0116_ian_happ.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jon Graff, Matt Buckman and Scott Changnon rattle off their main takeaways from the weekend’s Cubs Convention, including the funniest moments and how the players engaged with fans and each other throughout the three days at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Plus, which players — besides Kyle Schwarber — made the most of the offseason and are primed for a breakout in 2018? The crew gives its take, with options including Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

Take a listen below: