Jim Henderson’s extended minor league career has turned out to be rather worthwhile, as in 2013, he became the anchor for one of the best bullpens in the National League.
Henderson pitched for three organizations in the minor leagues from 2003 until July 27, 2012, when he finally received the promotion to the majors for the Brewers. Imagine that: It’s kind of like graduating college and then having to move back into your parents’ basement and working at a kind-of-cool job for ten years before
Doug Melvin your boss puts you in charge of a bunch of people and gives you a lot more money.
Aside from the life lessons and the narrative, “Gentleman” Jim Henderson has performed astutely for the Brewers ever since his call-up. This season, he took over the closer role for the Brewers, saving 27 games with a 2.70 earned-run average, 30.4 K percent, and 1.133 WHIP in 61 appearances that spanned 60 innings. He finished tied for tenth in the N.L. in saves despite missing two weeks with an injury and fifth in K/9 and K percent.
Henderson utilized his four-seamer to much more success in 2013; it registered a 8.7 wFB (runs above average with the fastball), up from his 1.2 mark in his rookie season. View his pitch f/x breakdown here, via Fangraphs.
|2012||Brewers||56.3 %||10.6 %||32.6 %||0.6 %|
|2013||Brewers||75.1 %||1.6 %||22.9 %|
|Total||- – -||68.8 %||4.6 %||26.2 %||0.2 %|
Why did Henderson really more on the fastball in 2013? It would be something I’d like to ask, but I don’t believe he has really made it public yet. His velocity remained similar, staying around 95 mph, but his vertical movement was one of the best in the game. Henderson averaged a VMov (vertical movement) on his fastball of 8.18 inches, per Brooks Baseball. For comparison, Max Scherzer of the Tigers, with one of the most dynamic fastballs in the game, sits at 8.07 inches for his career.
Per Brooks Baseball, here’s the average VMov on his four-seam since his Big League debut in 2012:
From July 11 until August 25 Henderson had a stretch of 14 consecutive scoreless appearances that spanned exactly 14 innings. His splits got a little shaky in June and then again in September. His ERA rose to 5.03 over 19.2 innings in those two months. Outside of that, however, Henderson was one of the game’s best relievers. His ERA in three out of the six months of the season was below 2.00.
The one alarming mark from Henderson’s stat line–despite his overall great campaign–is his opponents’ BABIP of .261. Though his ERA was 2.70, his tERA, which takes into account an estimated ERA based on all types of batted balls, was 4.67–12th among NL relievers with at least 50 innings pitched. Henderson may have been the recipient of some good luck this season, but will have to improve on his 27.6 ground ball percent and 0.63 GB/FB rate in 2014.
It’d be hard to complain much about Henderson after he established himself as the Brewers’ closer in 2013. The advanced stats may point to the need for improvement in a few areas, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Brewers’ reliever that performed head-and-shoulders better than he did in his second season (yes, I know Brandon Kintzler rocked that FIP and xFIP, thus why I included “head and shoulders”).