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The Toronto Blue Jays have had a very disappointing season. They started the year with a lot of promise, but injuries and underperformance have left them with a record of just 59-66, and at one point they were 11.5 games off the pace in the AL East. And while the division is still within reach, the Jays will likely need to make a move or two to get back in contention. (And now you’ve got some fodder for your own blog posts). A1.  Write a “How-To” guide on how to tie a tie. Include the following steps in the write-up: a)  Gather the necessary tools (such as a tie, a piece of scrunched up paper

The MLB All-Star Break is over, and the second half of the season is underway. So, there’s no better time to ask: is it time to worry about Liam Hendriks? Hendriks, a reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays, was brought in to fill a hole in the team’s bullpen, but his stats aren’t quite doing justice to his role in the team. For instance, Hendriks has the second-highest ERA of all Toronto relievers who have pitched at least 10 games, and his FIP is well above the team’s league average as well.

If you ask the average White Sox fan what their biggest disappointment was in 2021, you’ll get several answers. You might hear about Tony La Russa’s mismanagement, leaving too many runners on base, or the injuries to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

However, there is an elephant in the room that many people overlook: A brutal start to Liam Hendricks’ career with the White Sox. Missed saves, allowed home runs and inconsistent behavior worried fans as they entered the ninth inning of exciting games. His past dominance may lead some to ignore him, but it’s time to address the problem as a whole.

But before we get to that, let’s go back to the beginning and look at the expectations we had.

Welcome

Photo: WhiteSox/Twitter

When White Sox general manager Rick Hahn gave Hendricks a three-year, $54 million contract in the offseason, he was full of praise for the 32-year-old reliever.

We had the chance to see firsthand how dominant he can be. It’s easy to say we wanted him after what he did to us, but the truth is we had him in our sights for over a year.

– Rick Hahn about Liam Hendricks

Khan went on to say that he had been in contact with the Oakland A’s last season to begin trade talks. Hendrix was a hot commodity, and it’s easy to see why. Not only did he close out the last few innings of games, but he did it in dominant fashion.

Season Innings ERA Savings eliminations on catch Allowed home runs
2019 85.0 1.80 25 124 5
2020 25.1 1.78 14 37 1

Back to reality

Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Unfortunately, that’s where the good times end. To put it bluntly: Liam Hendricks has not impressed so far. His ERA is currently 3.86 with five saves in seven appearances. Hendricks has also struggled with strikeouts this season, with four home runs in just 11.2 innings pitched. It’s especially troubling because he allowed just one home run in 25.1 innings last season.

Tile floor by Shohei Ohtani

Here’s his 106.3 mph HR thrown to Liam Hendricks’ 97.3 mph fastball on the outside.

In all of 2020, only 3 batters have hit a HR with a 97+ mph fastball: Ronald Acuña Jr. (8/26), Mike Moustakas (9/21), Paul Goldschmidt (10/1). pic.twitter.com/g46zRpswjx

– David Adler (@_dadler) April 4, 2021

It may be a little harsh, but considering Hendricks has only been in action 12 times this season, he needs to step up. He is paid to serve as the main bullpen lever for the White Sox, but so far his performance has not been consistent enough. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make a difference.

Success plan

Photo: AP Photo/Paul Beaty

While these numbers are essential, statistics do not tell the whole story. Before the start of the season, Hendricks suffered from a serious kidney stone problem, which forced the team to be cautious with him early in the season. It may be a lingering problem that has prevented him from getting off to a good start. It’s also worth noting that Hendricks had some impressive saves, including 32 pitches and five strikeouts in the game against the Texas Rangers.

Although home runs were a big factor, four of his five earned runs came on long balls. If Hendricks can limit the home runs, he can get back on track quickly. Hendricks is hitting just .205 against him this season, and his 42.2% strikeout rate is the highest of his career. His fly ball percentage has never been higher, which may explain why some of his pitches have gone over the wall. If he can focus more on putting the ball in play, that could be the key to success.

Time to worry?

To make a long story short: No. This is not the time to worry about Liam Hendricks… yet. Not yet. Over the past three seasons, he has proven that he can be a reliable and dominant closer. The initial difficulties may be mental, which is typical of even the best players in the game. Maybe he’s playing with his mechanics to increase his hitting percentage. It is difficult to say whether this problem will persist until June-July.

Either way, a good run of scoreless innings will help ease the initial frustration of White Sox fans.

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