All hail the second coming of Noah Syndergaard

Noah SyndergaardBy any rational account, Noah Syndergaard‘s rookie campaign has had its ups and downs. He made his MLB debut in Chicago versus the Cubs, and surrendered three runs over 5.1 innings, striking out six, walking four and surrendering one home run. While good for a first go around versus a potent offensive club, it was only scratching the surface of Syndergaard’s immense potential. Over his next three starts he allowed two earned runs against 19.1 innings pitched, struck out 16 and walked just one batter.

The new king had arrived! Those trials and tribulations of 2014 down in Las Vegas had paid off, and now Mets fans had another ace to slide in right next to Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey. Then the weirdness set in. He struck out 10 batters in his next start and walked no one while visiting San Diego. He also allowed seven runs over just four innings of work in that same start. Over his next three games he pitched 16 innings, struck out 16, walked five, and allowed eight runs to score. It seemed like no one knew what we were going to get from Syndergaard from start to start.

He started to settle down a bit more, becoming more comfortable with his array of pitches. From June 26th to August 2nd, Syndergaard pitched to a 1.44 ERA, striking out 51 and walking just 10. He was dominate in a way that Mets fan had only dreamed of. He pitched better than some impressive competition, including Jordan Zimmermann, James Shields and Clayton Kershaw. But of course, like clockwork, there were the downs.

From August 8th to September 19th his ERA skyrocketed to 5.09, and while he was still striking out over a batter per inning, his K/BB% slid to 4.50. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but not quite like the 5.20 it had been in the previous good times. When he got hit, he was getting hit hard, and it was carrying over from start to start. The noticeable difference was that he was throwing his changeup more and more often. From his first start until August 8th the most he had ever thrown his changeup was 20.5% against the Atlanta Braves on June 20th, and it averaged from that same period just 12.1% of his pitches. From August 8th to September 19th he threw that same pitch 18% of the time. That might seem like a lot, but with a changeup that averaged over 88mph, it was more like a soft fastball than an off speed offering to mess up hitters’ timing.

But things did get better. As the whole Harvey innings-limit drama ensued, the organization began to not only limit its superstar’s innings, but that of deGrom and Syndergaard as well, It could be the most important decision the front office has made outside of trading for Yoenis Cespedes. All three studs were clearly tiring later into September, and their stats were showing it. Syndergaard wasn’t struggling the most, but he certainly rebounded the best.

His last two starts against Cincinnati and Washington were revelations. He struck out a combined 21 batters, and walked just one. Over 14.2 innings, he gave up just three runs, and two of them were via solo home runs. His command was impeccable, and his fastball/changeup combination was particularly impressive. It appeared as though Syndergaard, with the help of some timely rest, was regaining the form that was so desperately needed heading into the postseason.

Now Syndergaard is faced with his biggest challenge yet. He is going into Los Angeles for Game 2 of the NLDS, most likely facing Zack Grienke. But unlike his early struggles, Syndergaard has been handling away assignments much easier. Against albeit inferior competition, his last four road starts have garnered a 2.59 ERA, with 34 strikeouts to five walks. He is looking refreshed and raring to go in what will be the most important games the Mets have played in nearly a decade.

Syndergaard has had a very exciting first year in the majors. He’s been a god-send and a scapegoat at times, like many athletes in New York can attest. Right now is his moment to shine. With one of the best pitching arsenals the Mets fanbase has ever seen, the sky’s the limit for this kid. I just hope he takes along for the ride through the clouds in 2015.

4 comments for “All hail the second coming of Noah Syndergaard

  1. October 6, 2015 at 9:40 am

    With an average fastball velocity of 97.1 mph (the highest of anyone to throw at least 100 innings this year) — an 88 mph changeup can and will fool batters.

    I can’t wait for his playoff start. I’m thinking he’ll be pumped and with the extra rest we’ll see some triple digit fastballs.

    • James Preller
      October 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

      At some point in my life as a baseball fan, I began to understand the counter-intuitive value of walking batters. It might have come from watching Steve Trachsel as he applied that lesson to his own late-career work.

      Noah has a tendency to groove a FB when he falls behind in the count. What we’ve seen is that ML hitters can, at times, catch up to that pitch when they are sitting dead-red and it’s right down the pipe.

      Noah has to learn not to give in, and that depending on circumstances — score, outs, place in batting order, the hitter — the walk won’t kill you. He’s still got to strive to make that great pitch on the black.

      Pitchers can throw too many strikes, walk too few batters. That’s my take, anyway.

  2. Chris F
    October 6, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Perhaps along that line, I think the the young guns need to get more in tune with 2 strike mentalities. I have seen a lot of 0-2 and 1-2 counts then end up with hits, even home runs, or drawn out affairs with 10+ pitch ABs that just end up eating pitches. In almost every case the story plays out as try to end the AB with power instead smarts. At 0-2 I dont want to see a strike zone strike, but something that bounces, darts, or rises around the zone, and is hard to hit. I means throwing a ball with the purpose of getting a swinging strike. Right now I dont sense that in either the pitchers or in TdA who should be demanding expanded strike zone pitches that have to be swing at. All our guns have that ability, and need to mix it in.

    • James Preller
      October 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      I have mixed feelings. Never been a fan of the “waste a pitch” approach, so it has to be done wisely, expanding the zone without throwing the ball away — managers are counting these pitches and pulling guys at specific numbers. I think there’s value in going after hitters and putting them away, not suddenly becoming a nibbler every time a guy gets two strikes. With K pitchers like deGrom & Noah & Harvey, that’s a lot of wasted bullets. I think it should vary and depends largely on the batter. Unpredictability is key. And, yes, sometimes you might give up a hit on an 0-2 pitch. I’m not convinced it’s a problem.

      For example, if you are a RHP and you have a slider, you should never throw a strike against David Wright if you have him 0-2. He will chase that pitch. Lagares is another. With other hitters, it could be a waste of time.

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