Postseason baseball is just a few weeks away and the defending champion Chicago Cubs are looking to close out the NL Central race strong before October. Heading into Monday the magic number to clinch the Central was at 10 with the second place Milwaukee Brewers 4.0 back and still playing solid baseball. The race is not technically over but the Cubs control their own destiny at this point, and it is crunch time for everyone on the team.

One of the biggest assets to this team has been Kyle Hendricks, who was key to their World Series championship last year and has pitched very good baseball in the second half.

"The Professor" as he is called in Chicago was a runner-up in Cy Young voting last year with a 2.13 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 190.0 innings. After a shaky start in 2017 and an injury that sidelined him for some time, he has come back really strong and has helped put the Cubs in the position they are currently in.

Second half numbers

Before missing roughly a month from early June to late August, Hendricks' numbers were fair, but not great. He sported a 4.09 ERA and gave up four earned runs in a start against St. Louis to put his ERA above four. He had some problems with inflammation on his right hand which looked minor at first but missed much more time than expected. He returned after the All-Star break on July 24th and since then seemed more like the Hendricks of old.

In 11 starts since coming back in the second half, Hendricks has pitched to a 2.42 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 21.0% strikeout rate, 6.3% walk rate, 1.07 HR/9 rate and a 49.0% groundball rate. This is what made him successful last year, getting a lot of weak grounders, not getting hit very hard, still able to strike out a decent amount of batters all while throwing no more than 88 MPH on a usual start day.

He has not only helped the team win but he has been efficient enough to at least go six or seven innings which have been an issue for the Cubs starters many times this season.

Postseason success

If the Cubs do indeed win the division and head to the NLDS, Kyle Hendricks is a lock for that rotation. He was extremely reliable last year in the postseason which he pitched to a 1.42 ERA in five starts including the pennant-clinching game and game seven of the World Series.

His most successful of the five was clinching the NLCS against the Dodgers when he went 7.1 innings giving up two hits and no runs in an absolutely dominating fashion.

He is no stranger now to either the postseason or crucial games and should have Joe Maddon's 100% trust.