Surprise All-Star Closer: Liam Hendriks
The awesome Aussie had possibly the biggest jump of any pitcher in Major League Baseball, and the best season of any pitcher who doesn’t play for the Houston Astros, New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers.
The opener of last year’s WC Game, who lasted one inning and gave up a two-run home run to Aaron Judge, started the season in a similar role, jumping in as a spot opener and as a middle relief pitcher.
But after Blake Treinen’s injury – coupled with his mid-season struggles – Liam Hendriks turned in one of the best seasons for a reliever in A’s history.
He was one of only five pitchers with an ERA under 2.00 (1.80), a WHIP under 1.00 (0.96) who pitched at least 50 innings. He broke the A’s franchise record for strikeouts by a reliever with 124 (with only 21 walks) and, despite only being the closer from mid-June on, saved 25 games, good for 16th in MLB.
Not only was he the biggest surprise of the season, but you can make the argument that he was the most valuable player on this team. In a season when the rest of the bullpen often faltered, the A’s could count on Hendriks to punch out batters, whether it was a five-out save, a one-out save or coming in with runners on in a one-run game.
He’ll be one of the three or four key non-starting pitchers that will decide how far the A’s season goes.