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


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.

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form


Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants