Noah Syndergaard came up in 2015 and was pretty darn good. He was even better the following year. Prior to the 2017 season, Syndergaard decided that the way to become even better was to bulk up so he could throw even harder. It didn’t sound good at the time and the results were pretty much as predicted, as he missed most of the year with a lat injury. This year, despite two trips to the DL, Syndergaard has a terrific record at 12-3. But he has come under fire for numerous things.
We know about the stuff and we know the results. But somehow we’re disappointed. He doesn’t do “this” enough. Or he doesn’t do “that” well at all. Or it’s too easy to do “something” off him. We’re so busy nitpicking Syndergaard to death that we’ve lost sight of the big picture. And that big picture, or bottom line if you will, has Syndergaard with a 3.8 fWAR, the 15th-best mark among all pitchers in the majors. And that’s with him making nine fewer starts than Max Scherzer. Imagine what his numbers would look like without the two DL trips!
Why do you have to say there there’s always someone
Who can do it better than I can?
But don’t you think that I know that walking on the water
Won’t make me a miracle man?
Before contracting hand, foot and mouth disease and going on the DL for the second time, Syndergaard was 6-1 with a 2.89 ERA. But when he came back, he had a four-start stretch where he had a 4.85 ERA and all of the nitpickers came out in droves. He doesn’t pitch up in the zone enough, he takes too many pitches to put guys away, he’s too easy to run against, he gives up too many hits – these complaints have come from all corners. There’s not one person who said they were happy with Syndergaard and left it at that. It always came with a “but,” and then fill in the blank with whatever complaint this particular person held dear.
In his last five starts, he has a 2.86 ERA with a 1.212 WHIP and is 4-0.
You’d think that would turn the “buts” around. However, you’d be wrong. “But” two of those starts and wins came against the Giants. “But” he gave up four runs against the Cubs. “But” he gave up 12 hits and 5 walks against the Phillies. “But” he allowed six steals, including three against the Red Sox. “But” September starts and stats are meaningless. And so on and so on.
If my teenage son was a Mets fan, he’s probably pick Syndergaard as his favorite player. He’d empathize with the guy who performed incredibly well yet had to hear over and over again about the things he didn’t excel in. Sure, you’re a straight A student, a gifted guitar player, a dedicated actor and a kind person to others. But would it kill you to pick your clothes up off the floor and how many times do I have to tell you to close up the bread so that it doesn’t go stale?
And we’re doing the same thing to Syndergaard. This is his age 25 season, he’s easily one of the top starters in the game and he’s ending the season on a high note. And somehow we’re not happy with that.
We want the best for the Mets and we can see the areas that Syndergaard can improve upon to be even better than he is at the present moment. But if you didn’t freak out about the stolen bases allowed by Dwight Gooden, can you cut Syndergaard the same slack? If you didn’t fret about the hits allowed by Jerry Koosman, can you extend the same courtesy to a guy here in 2018?
My choice for the remaining three starts that Syndergaard has here this season is to focus on what he does incredibly well, rather than what he might not be so hot at doing. I’m going to focus on the strikeouts he piles up and the walks and homers he typically does a great job of avoiding. And my focus will be on the runs the other team doesn’t score, rather than the hits and stolen bases they might get. And hopefully that entire Syndergaard package will lead to three more Mets wins.
In a time when we’re rightfully downgrading the importance of individual pitcher wins, it still would be good, for me at least, to see a 15-win season for Syndergaard. Chalk that up to cognitive dissonance if you will. My thinking is it would be a nice validation to a challenging season for the young Mets ace in a year where he battled both injuries and over-the-top nitpicking.