Liam Hendriks: An Irrational Appreciation

One of my favorite scenes is Moneyball is the post mortem from the 2001 Oakland season. The very handsome Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) is sitting in a room with the oldest scouts you could possibly imagine. They are wearing polo’s and Members Only jackets, one of them has an earpiece in. You can practically smell the mothballs coming off of them. They make the already handsome Pitt look even more beautiful.

These old school guys are giving Billy the breakdown of players they want to fill the void of losing Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon et al. dropping scout buzzwords left and right.  

“Clean cut. Good face”

“Five-tool guy”

“Classic swing. A real clean stroke”

“Passes the eye candy test”

All of these are essentially useless platitudes, but it’s the only way these guys know how to talk. It’s a great scene because it establishes the old-school way of thinking that our hero is here to shake up and change during the course of the film.  

Moneyball certainly changed the way that I and I’m sure, lots of fans came to appreciate the Bill James/advanced statistics model of evaluating players. I know I certainly worship at the altar of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant or obsess over the ZiPS projections.

This movie and movement in general, gave us, the super-fan, an air of superiority over the casual observer. We could scoff at the person just reading the back of the baseball card. When the Sox are rumored to be trading for or signing any player, I’m checking their wRC+ and FIP before I’m ever checking out their batting average or ERA. I think advanced statistics are the most important evaluation tool baseball has come up with in 50 years.

When the White Sox signed Liam Hendriks and I threw that all out of the window.

Liam certainly has the advanced stats to back up the 4 years and (come hell or high water) $54 million contract he signed. MLB Network has him as the best reliever in baseball in 2021. He utilizes Codify to help him. It’s all pretty amazing to have a player of his caliber.

But have you seen him SCREAM on the mound?! He’s Australian! Hell yeah! He’s a dog lover!

None of this is quantifiable data that can show you he’s better than player B, but dammit, I love all of these aspects.

I want my closer to having an attitude. I want my closer to being borderline mentally unstable when he takes the mound with a one-run lead in the ninth. The crazier the eyes, the better. I want him to be intimidating and have an “I’m better than you” thought process on the mound and Hendriks has that in spades.

The Closer is basically the only “tough guy” position on all of baseball. This is where you want your player compared to an NFL star – or in Liam’s case, the Australian Rules version. You need to have an edge, something that can’t just be plugged into an excel spreadsheet (and I love excel spreadsheets!)

I have turned into a giant meatball. I am becoming the kind of fan whom I would mock with my reaction to the signing of Hendriks… and I’m loving every minute of it.

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