Just one thing standing between Noah Syndergaard and dominance

Noah SyndergaardMets rookie pitcher Noah Syndergaard seemingly has all the making of a future ace. He’s young, healthy and 11-feet tall with a golden arm. He can throw a marshmallow through a battleship and drop a hammer that make a batter’s knees buckle. He’s also got a solid changeup and surprisingly good control.  Unlike a lot of rookies, he limits his walks. When Noah gets in trouble, like this past Tuesday night in San Diego, and in many games in Las Vegas last season, he gives up strings of hits. Despite a massive mound presence and filthy strikeout/groundout stuff, Noah has a habit of “letting hitters get too comfortable at the plate” and this can lead to big rally innings. Can this be fixed? What is the problem?

Thor Is a Really Nice Guy
Not to say Matt Harvey is a big jerk, but he possesses that bullish confidence and arrogance that classic workhorse aces like Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan also demonstrated. These guys owned the strike zone and made it abundantly clear to the batters that faced them that they should not get too comfortable in the batter’s box. Harvey, like his predecessors has a way of establishing dominance like an alpha dog. He glares back from the mound knowing that home plate is his, not the batter’s.  He seizes control of every at bat by aggressively working his fastball from up and in to low and outside and everywhere in between. No batter can lean over the plate or sit comfortably back on his heels waiting for his pitch.

Syndergaard has shown very good control of both his fastball and secondary pitches thus far, however there is a noticeable hesitation to come inside on hitters. Perhaps he’s afraid of hurting someone – not an uncommon issue for young pitchers. Maybe he once injured a player in the low minors or even high school and felt terrible about it and it still haunts him.  Or maybe he’s just leery of putting a runner on base via hit-by-pitch. Whatever the reason, Syndergaard is leaving a very important tool in the box.

Ryan, Clemens, Martinez and Seaver prevented hitters from getting comfortable by coming inside. A batter with a little anxiety has “oh crap, I might have to jump out of the way of a blazing fastball” circling in their head along with “what pitch is he gonna throw?” and “is it hittable?” This added hesitation or an actual backing off the plate makes hitters vulnerable. Martinez would follow up a brush back pitch with a sinking changeup just off the plate that resulted in many strike threes and feeble ground outs. Seaver would hit the black with a slider and Clemens throw a splitter in the dirt.

Ryan threw high 90’s chin music that would plant a player on the dirt. He’d glare at him like an intimidating gunslinger as the batter dusted off his backside and stepped back in the box. If the batter spit and glared back, Ryan might come back high and in again. It was his strike zone, his plate and his at bat. Once that was established, he’d either throw a high outside fastball the batter couldn’t catch up with or a looping hook that froze him in place.

If Syndergaard weren’t so nice, he could emulate these guys.  He’s got the heat. He’s got the hammer. He just needs a killer instinct.

8 comments for “Just one thing standing between Noah Syndergaard and dominance

  1. MetsRealist
    June 5, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Why does a pitcher have to be mean to succeed?

  2. BK
    June 5, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I get what you’re saying. And it’s not exactly “mean,” it’s more like a hard competitive edge that manifests itself as mean.

    Now comparing him to Nolan Ryan is just unfair. That dude could take down a charging buffalo. Robin Ventura never had a chance against him.

    • Matt Netter
      June 5, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Syndergaard, deGrom and Wheeler could all develop into perennial 15-game winners but Harvey has that unwaveringly fierce Michael Jordan-esque determination that superstar hall of famers possess. If he’s still pitching at 40 I’d still hand him the ball for game 7.

  3. heypigg
    June 5, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    This is dumb. How about he throws strike 3 out of the zone. Noah consistently gets ahead of batters, then they get a hit after being down in the count. Try throwing a pitch outside of the zone when ahead in the count. Other than that just be yourself. You don’t need to be angry to be good. You need to be smart.

  4. Patrick Albanesius
    June 5, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I think it’s pitch calling. Noah probably is just throwing what is called, and sometimes what is called is idiotic. He’s got a rookie catcher and a goofy manager telling him what to throw. When that gets fixed, he’s settle down even more than he’s already done. Absolutely nothing needs to change about his style otherwise.

  5. BadRaZoR
    June 5, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    As a former pitcher (played for 17 years but never got above semi-pro), I know exactly what you are talking about. It’ isn’t being “mean” per se, it’s presence like you are saying. A pitchers job is to throw off a hitters timing and owning the inside part of the plate is so important for a pitcher. Your article is spot on but I think he will need a couple years to develop that presence. It will come the more confident he gets with himself. There have only been a select few, and you mentioned some of them, who had that instinct from day 1. Those are the truly special pitchers!

  6. June 5, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    I have 2 stories for you. One was when Ryan drilled Don Baylor with a 98 MPH fastball. Normally Baylor was just nonchalantly jog over to first. This time after taking two steps toward first base, he stopped and doubled over in pain. The trainers had to come out and buy Baylor some time to recover. He said it was the hardest he had ever been hit and he told the reporter he would adjust his at-bats against Ryan (move off the plate). The other was Dwight Gooden at Shea against the Pirates. I remember the first batter up Gooden drilled him in the middle of his back. The guy just keeled over in the batters box in pain. Gooden simply glared into the Pirate dugout, No one challenged him and the Pirates only got 3 hits and were shutout. Nolan never apologized for hitting Baylor or any other batter he hit. It’s just part of the game. There was no head hunting and players never looked comfortable against Ryan,Gooden or the pitchers you mentioned. And if by chance someone hit a home run against them you never saw a batter admire his dinger because he knew the next at bat was going to be very unpleasant.

  7. Matt Netter
    June 6, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Bad Razor, you get it. I was a pitcher too and now I coach young pitchers. Inside sets up outside and Noah is not working the inside.

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