Let’s start this by saying yes, we all know that Noah Syndergaard is, has been and can be a dominant Major League pitcher. One need look no further than his game three of the 2015 World Series. The first pitch to Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar sent the message that this would be the Mets’ night. After that 9-3 Mets win, Escobar and some other of his Royals teammates took issue with the throw that left Escobar sprawled out in the batters’ box. The rookie Syndergaard’s response? “If they want to do something about it, they know where to find me: sixty feet, six inches away.” Now, add that attitude to a six-foot-six, 240 pound frame, a lush mane of blonde hair, a nerdy-cool nickname and blow-away stuff. Sounds like the definition of dominance, right? In 2018, though, that hasn’t been the case.
It’s not like he hasn’t been good, he’s been great at times. But something just seems…off. Yes, the lat issue that scuttled his 2017 takes a long recovery time. After going down in that disastrous April game in Washington, he stayed on the shelf until the end of September, making just two token starts at the end of the year, including throwing 26 pitches in two innings in game number 162. This year, his odd look started right away. Garnering the Opening Day starting assignment, he pitched six good innings, walking none and striking out 10, but he allowed two home runs, accounting for all four runs he allowed to the Cardinals. His next start, he could only last four innings, but he struck out seven batters. His season has just kind of gone along like that – dominant in short bursts, but marred by a lack of length or a lack of control or a lack of command. In his first eleven starts, he was able to get through the seventh inning only twice, piling up a slew of no-decisions along the way.
After a six inning, no walk, eight strikeout, three runs allowed – see? There’s another one – performance against Milwaukee on May 25, he had to sit on the shelf for all of June and half of July with a strained ligament in his right index finger, another addition to the Mets’ mile-long list of injured stars. Returning on July 13, he made two middling five-inning starts before landing back on the DL with hand, foot and mouth disease. Yes, you read that right. As a side note, when Syndergaard was afflicted with this malady, it was all “LOLMets! What a joke!” A month later, the Yankees acquired J.A. Happ, who also came down with h,f and m disease and it was a matter of grave concern. But I digress. Since his return from illness on August 1, he’s shown a little more length, but his strikeouts are now down. Last night, against the San Francisco Giants, he got his ninth win of the year – Jacob deGrom has eight, if you can fathom that – allowing two runs in six innings, striking out six. More of the same. It’s a lack of something, but it’s tough to define or quantify exactly what.
It just seems…odd.
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