Liam Hendriks

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Liam Johnson Hendriks

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Biographical Information[edit]

Liam Hendriks was a top Australian prospect entering 2008 and made his major league debut three years later.

Hendriks was signed by international scouting coordinator Howard Norsetter for the Minnesota Twins shortly after his 18th birthday and debuted in the minors with the 2007 GCL Twins. He went 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA, struck out 52 in 44 innings and walked 11. He made his Claxton Shield debut in 2008 and went 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA, finishing third in ERA and tying Tim Cox and Mark Kelly for the most wins. He struck out 25 to tie Kelly for the lead. He was added to the Australian national team for the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament and was arguably their top hurler, allowing one unearned run in five innings. He allowed two hits and a walk while fanning six. The rest of the staff was less successful (a 5.34 team ERA) and Australia failed to qualify for the Beijing Games.

Hendriks had back surgery that prevented him from pitching in the minors in 2008, but he made Australia's roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The youngest Australian player in the Classic, he was 7th among their 13 pitchers in ERA despite having an ERA over 9; Australia played their games in high-scoring Foro Sol Stadium. Hendriks tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in a 17-7 win over host Mexico. In his second outing, he replaced Brendan Wise in the 4th inning against Mexico, trailing 5-0 and with two aboard. He gave up a single to Augie Ojeda and a RBI ground-out to Jerry Hairston Jr.. Edgar Gonzalez singled home a run. Paul Mildren relieved and let both inherited runners score.

Hendriks made his major league debut late in the 2011 season, going 0-2, 6.17 in 4 starts. In 2012, he shuffled a number of times between AAA Rochester and the Twins' starting rotation. However, his first major league victory proved to be elusive. In a particularly heart-breaking loss on August 27th, he matched the great Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners pitch for pitch for seven innings, only to give up a solo homer to Eric Thames in the 8th. It was the only run of the game, and the complete game loss gave him a record of 0-7, 6.02 in 10 starts. He finally got his first win on September 19th, 6-4 over the Cleveland Indians, but his was his lone W of the year. He ended the season at 1-8, 5.59 in 16 starts. 2013 was more of the same, as he was 1-3, 6.85 in 10 games for the Twins. He also had a losing record in the minors, finishing the year 4-8, 4.67 in 16 starts at Rochester.

Liam signed with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2014 season and began the season back in AAA, this time with the Buffalo Bisons. He was 5-0, 1.48 after 9 appearances when he got the call to Toronto, replacing Esmil Rogers, who was released. This time, he was able to enter the win column quickly, as he was a winner in his first start on May 23rd, 3-2 over the Oakland A's. He explained his recent turnaround by a deliberate attempt to be more aggressive and challenge hitters more than he had in the past. After a couple more shuttles between Buffalo and Toronto, his record was at 8-1, 2.33 in AAA, where he was a mid-season All-Star, and 1-0, 6.08 in three starts for the Blue Jays when he was traded to the Kansas City Royals on July 28th. He and C Erik Kratz headed to the Royals in return for 3B Danny Valencia. he made 6 appearances for the Royals, including 3 starts, and went 0-2, 4.66 in 19 1/3 innings. He was not on the team's postseason roster, and after the Royals lost the 2014 World Series, he was designated for assignment and traded back to Toronto on October 30th, in return for minor league catcher Santiago Nessy.

Hendriks had his best season for the Blue Jays in 2015, making 58 appearances in relief with a record of 5-0 and a 2.92 ERA. In 64 2/3 innings, he struck out 71 and walked only 11. He pitched only a third of an inning in the ALDS, but added 4 2/3 innings in two outings in the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits. On November 20th, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in return for P Jesse Chavez. His first season with the A's in 2016 was nothing special, as he went 0-4, 3.76 in 53 games as a middle reliever. In 2017, he was one of the busiest relievers in the majors, making 70 appearances, and while he struck out 78 batters in 64 innings, the rest of his numbers were unremarkable, with a 4-2 record, no saves and an ERA of 4.22. In 2018, he missed part of the season with an injury that limited him to 25 games and 24 innings. Towards the end of the year, he found a role as the team's designated "opener", being used as the starting pitcher in 8 bullpen games. He went 0-1, 4.13, and the Athletics made the postseason as one of two wild card teams in the American League. In the Wild Card Game played against the New York Yankees on October 3rd, the Athletics made the controversial decision of going with a bullpen game, and Hendriks was tabbed as the starter. However, the strategy did not work, as Liam allowed 2 runs in the 1st inning before recording a walk, on a walk to leadoff batter Andrew McCutchen followed by a two-run homer by Aaron Judge. The Yankees never surrendered that early lead, winning the game, 7-2, and Hendriks was charged with the loss.

In 2019, Hendriks became a completely different pitcher, as he decided to change his approach and simply attack the strike zone relentlessly with fastballs. It worked for him as he suddenly became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, being selected to play in the All-Star Game for the first time. He became Oakland's closer, saving 25 games (he had registered one save in 8 major league seasons entering the year), and posting an ERA of 1.80 in 75 games. He made another couple of starts as an opener, both in May, and did not record his first save until his 35th appearance on June 22nd, but from that point forward he was manager Bob Melvin's main man in the bullpen and there was no more using him in experimental roles. In 85 innings, he allowed just 61 hits and 21 walks, while striking out a whopping 124 batters. He pitched in the postseason again, against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Game on October 2nd. He pitched the top of the 9th with the A's trailing 5-1 and retired all three batters he faced, but his teammates were unable to mount an improbable comeback in the bottom of the innings and the A's were once again eliminated in just one game.

In 2020, Hendriks was the A's closer from the (delayed) start of the season and was great from one end of the year to the other, going 3-1, 1.78 in 24 games, with 14 saves. He again posted more than twice as many strikeouts as hits, with 37 Ks (and just 3 walks) in 25 1/3 innings, against just 14 hits. He was named the winner of the Mariano Rivera Award as the best relief pitcher in the American League. In the postseason, he made two appearances in the Wild Card Series against the Chicago White Sox, both of them in must-win games. In Game 2, he came in in the 8th with the A's holding a 5-0 lead, but he gave a two-run homer that inning (one of the runs was charged to starter Chris Bassitt) after allowing just one the entire regular season and then in the 9th, he had to be bailed out by Jake Diekman after loading the bases with two outs; Diekman forced in a run with a walk but was able to close out the win. It seemed that Hendriks would be unavailable for the deciding Game 3 on October 1st, having needed a season-high 49 pitches in Game 2, but he came back with a very impressive outing. He was his team's 8th pitcher when he pitched the top of the 9th with a 6-4 lead. After walking lead-off man James McCann, he got down to business, striking out the next three batters - Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and Nomar Mazara - to save the game and move Oakland to the next round. In the Division Series against the Houston Astros, he made only one appearance, but it was another great one as he pitched 3 innings in Game 3, allowing just one hit and striking out 4, to receive credit for a 9-7 win. However, it was the A's only win of the series, which they lost in four games. He became a free agent after the season.

On January 11, 2021, news emerged that Hendriks had reached a free agent deal with the Chicago White Sox, subject to official confirmation. The agreement was reportedly for three years with an option year, with $54 million guaranteed, and the option set at $15 million. The White Sox had been one of the most active teams during a winter characterized by few deals, having earlier acquired P Lance Lynn and OF Adam Eaton in separate moves.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (2019 & 2021)
  • Mariano Rivera Award Winner (2020)
  • AL Saves Leader (2021)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2021)

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "How Hendriks became the top FA reliever", mlb.com, November 20, 2020. [1]
  • Do-Hyoung Park: "Hendriks, White Sox agree to deal (source)", mlb.com, January 12, 2021. [2]

Related Sites[edit]