Oakland Athletics 2016 Preview: Relief Pitcher Liam Hendriks

Oakland Athletics traded for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20, 2015.

For relief pitcher Liam Hendriks, 2015 was all about a fresh start. Prior to this season, Hendriks had been a young, less than mediocre starting pitcher. Then, last year, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to stick Hendriks in the bullpen and he excelled in this new position.

In 2015, this 26-year-old right-handed Australian pitched 64 innings in relief, which resulted in a 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 71 strikeouts and 0.9 WAR. Before this season, Hendriks’ ERA had not been below 4.50 and his WAR was always negative. Additionally, his velocity jumped from an average of 91 MPH to a startlingly 99 MPH. It seemed as though this new role was just the change Hendriks needed in order to find success in the major leagues. 

In addition to a new job title, Hendriks also made some lifestyle changes that contributed to his stellar 2015 season. Last February, Hendriks stopped drinking alcohol, started eating healthier, and begin a new workout regimen that included pilates to improve his core strength as reported by Australia’s Daily Telegraph. If Hendriks continues with this health and workout plan in 2016, it is clear that he will continue to thrive as a relief pitcher with the Oakland Athletics. 

Right now, it is expected that Hendriks will be a late inning reliever for the A’s. However, because he has just one year of relief experience, he is not slotted in the eighth inning setup man position. That role is expected to be shared by Ryan Madson and Marc Rzepczynski, who are both veterans and have even been closers in the past. Hendriks will have to prove that he is better and more reliable than both of these experienced relievers if he wants to pitch in the eighth inning on a consistent basis. The possibility of this happening is actually quite high due to the fact that it is still a question mark as to how well Madson and Rzepcznski will pitch this upcoming season. 

Additionally, because he is young, Hendriks could become a staple part of the A’s bullpen for many years to come if he excels in green and gold. He is under team control until 2019 and has already shown some success as a late inning relief pitcher by collecting five holds in 2015. With Sean Doolittle being a left-handed reliever, Hendriks and Doolittle could pack a nice one-two punch in the eighth and ninth inning to win a game.

The bottom line is that the future is bright for Liam Hendriks. He has finally found his niche position and lives a lifestyle that benefits his job. As Hendriks continues to grow and learn as a reliever, he will only get better.

Bold Prediction: Liam Hendriks will outperform Ryan Madson and Marc Rzepczynski early in the season to become the A’s go-to eighth inning setup man for the majority of 2016.

Will Liam Hendriks boost the A’s bullpen’s success in 2016? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!