West Australian Liam Hendriks has been named the American League’s Reliever of the Month for September and October, as the Chicago White Sox move into the MLB playoffs.
Hendriks has capped off his debut season with the White Sox to earn his second American League Reliever of the Month award for the 2021 MLB season, after also being presented with the honour in May.
Throughout the last month, and as the regular MLB season wrapped up, Hendriks finished strongly and is well-placed to lead the American League Central Champions, the Chicago White Sox, deep into the playoffs.
In September and October, the Australian made 13 appearances and in 13.2 innings, failed to give up a run, finishing the final stretch of the season with an ERA of 0.00. In that period, Hendriks only gave up six hits and issued zero walks, while amassing 21 strikeouts in total.
The right-hander converted all eight of his save opportunities when he was brought in to close out games for the White Sox, extending his total season saves to 38 for the year.
The 32-year-old’s 38 saves saw him lead the American League in that category – four more than the second-best in the American League, the Los Angeles Angels’ Raisel Iglesias and just one away from overall league-leader, Mark Melancon of the San Diego Padres.
In the 2021 regular season, Hendriks made 69 appearances and threw 71.0 innings. He gave up 45 hits for 23 runs (20 earned) and struck out 113 across the journey. He became the first pitcher in White Sox franchise history to have 30-plus saves and 100-plus strikeouts in a season.
As well, he is now the second pitcher (after the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen in 2017) in MLB history to hit both those marks while issuing seven or fewer walks. Hendriks’ strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16.14 is the second-best single-season mark in the modern era (since 1990).
The reliever revealed to MLB.com his approach and mentality on the mound, saying the stats are favourable to him, which helps spur him on to continue performing well each game.
“My theory on it is if you are a Hall of Famer or having an All-Star-class season [as a hitter], you are going to be right around the .300 average level. That means seven out of 10 times, you are going to get out,” he said.
“So, why would I give you an extra chance of putting you on base? Why can’t I run the risk of 3-2 or whatever the count, throw a strike and see what they can do with it? The odds are in my favour you are going to get out.”
Hendriks’ season has him touted as being in contention for the Cy Young Award, given to the MLB’s top pitcher in each league. He remained humble when asked about being in the running for the accolade by MLB.com earlier in week.
“Not when you have two Top 5 contenders on our own team. Obviously, you get that brought up, and it’s very hard to be a reliever,” he commented.
“The only real season that could ever come close to doing anything like that was what [Eric] Gagne was able to do, perfect in saves and lead the league in saves and all of that.
“Other than that, it’s a tall task. Obviously, my money is on [Toronto’s] Robbie Ray, with what he’s been able to do this year and bringing that team close to the brink of the playoffs.”
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As the MLB moves into the postseason, Hendriks will take his previous playoff experiences into this next stage of the season. He has appeared in eight playoff games – five with the Oakland Athletics and three with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hendriks was impressive last year with a save in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Chicago White Sox, and picked up a win in Game 3 of the American League Divisional Series against the Houston Astros.
The pitcher told MLB.com that he is looking to take his regular season momentum into the postseason, and contribute to a White Sox World Series win.
“I’ve been basically ready to pitch every game for the regular season, so I’m raring to go,” Hendriks said.
“You saw what I did last year with, I think it was 49 pitches, and then pitching the next day [against the White Sox in the Wild Card Series]. I threw three innings against the Astros in Game 3 of the ALDS last year and was ready to go in Game 4.
“Nothing’s off the table in the playoffs. I’ll be ready to go no matter what, no matter how many innings, pitches, whatever I throw. If I’m physically able to pick the arm up, I’m ready to go.”
Hendriks and the Chicago White Sox will begin their American League Divisional Series against the Houston Astros from 7:07am on Friday, October 8 AEST in a best-of-five series matchup.
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