Cubs demote Kyle Hendricks, last remaining member of 2016 World Series team, to bullpen amid brutal start

Hendricks currently holds a 10.57 ERA

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 17: Kyle Hendricks #28 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the fourth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on May 17, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
It has been a tough season for Kyle Hendricks. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

The last remaining member of the Chicago Cubs' 2016 World Series championship team is trending toward an ignominious end to his career at Wrigley Field.

Veteran starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks is being demoted to the bullpen amid an awful start, manager Craig Counsell told reporters Tuesday, via The Athletic's Patrick Mooney. For Thursday, Hendricks' usual rotation spot, the Cubs will do a bullpen game.

The writing was on the wall for Hendricks after his previous start. The 11-year veteran's ERA moved to 10.57 after he allowed eight runs (seven earned) and 11 hits in a 9-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Counsell didn't sound eager about the idea of demoting Hendricks after that start, via The Athletic:

“We got to look at the start a little closer and see what’s going on,” Counsell said. “We’re in a tough stretch right now. We’ve got eight pitchers on the injured list. We’ve got to keep doing our best to help Kyle turn the corner. I think that’s going to be really important here. In the stretch we’re in, we’re going to need innings.”

Hendricks, who is 34, is set to hit free agency after this season, in which he's making $16.5 million. He currently leads MLB in earned runs allowed, with 36 in seven starts. The next three pitchers on the list — Reid Detmers, Aaron Civale and Miles Mikolas — have all made 10 starts.

The peripherals don't indicate that Hendricks is a victim of bad luck, either. His FIP is 6.93. His xERA is 6.22. Statcast says batters should be hitting .316 against him. His 10.57 ERA and .362 batting average against are more extreme than those numbers, but the whole package looks like one of the worst starters in MLB.

It's a sudden decline for Hendricks, who for years had defied the velocity-obsessed trend increasingly dominating baseball. His average fastball velocity hasn't topped 90 mph since 2016 (his 87.9 mph this season is actually his highest mark in that span), but he has pitched a solid career through command, deception and veteran savvy.

That mix has failed him so far this season. The Cubs are likely hoping he will fare better in the bullpen, as he's really getting blasted when facing hitters multiple times. He has allowed a .254/.302/.424 slash line when facing hitters the first time, with those numbers going up to .377/.397/.672 the second time through the order and an astonishing .667/.720/1.222 the third.

However this season plays out, Hendricks will remain a popular figure among Cubs fans in the long term, like any key member of the 2016 team. Hendricks led MLB with a 2.13 ERA that season and followed it with a 1.42 ERA in the playoffs.