Mets fans did not appreciate enough what a fine season Noah Syndergaard had in 2018. While all of the attention was rightly focused on the tremendous year put up by Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard put up a season right in the ballpark with his All-Star campaign of 2016. But there were the DL trips that limited him to 25 starts and the hits and stolen bases allowed that distracted people from the actual results he was compiling.
Syndergaard missed about seven weeks with a finger injury. He came back and made two more starts before coming down with HFMD. When he went on the DL for the second time, Syndergaard was 6-1 with a 2.89 ERA. Despite allowing a .356 BABIP in this stretch, opponents managed just a .685 OPS against him. Among qualified pitchers at the end of the year, Nick Pivetta had the highest BABIP against in the majors with a .326 mark. And Pivetta’s OPS allowed was .743 – 58 points higher than Syndergaard’s despite having a BABIP 30 points lower.
When Syndergaard returned from the second DL trip, he had four starts that were shaky. One could make the case that he returned too soon from the viral infection he suffered. Then in his final eight starts, Syndergaard was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA. The stolen bases against him were manageable – seven steals in eight games, compared to 12 in the previous four outings – and he allowed just a .278 BABIP in this closing stretch. But by this point the narrative had already been established.
When healthy – combining his numbers from before the second DL trip and his final eight games of the year – Syndergaard was 11-2 with a 2.66 ERA. He had 33 BB and 133 Ks in 128.1 IP over 21 starts. That still wasn’t as good as deGrom. But in most years, those numbers over 30+ starts puts you firmly in the discussion for post-season hardware.
So, what do the computer models see from Syndergaard in 2019?
Marcel — 10-6, 3.21 ERA, 140 IP, 38 BB, 147 Ks, 10 HR
Steamer – 11-10, 3.51 ERA, 176 IP, 46 BB, 183 Ks, 18 HR
Back-to-back injury-shortened years has these projections really bearish on his ability to throw 200 innings. It seems unlikely he’ll suffer HFMD again and hopefully the lat injury he suffered in 2017 will not be a factor again, either. Syndergaard’s final numbers in 2018 included a 3.03 ERA and he holds a 2.93 career ERA, so Steamer’s projection in this category seems off to me. A large part of the problem seems to be those 18 HR, which comes out to a 0.92 HR/9. In the last three seasons, Syndergaard has surrendered 20 HR in 368.1 IP, for a 0.5 HR/9 rate.
Here is my biased forecast for Syndergaard:
15-7, 2.80 ERA, 190 IP, 53 BB, 201 Ks, 12 HR
Filled with offseason optimism, it was difficult not to predict 200 innings from Syndergaard. But that’s a total he’s never reached in his career and the 190 forecasted above would represent a career-high in the majors for him and an increase of 35.2 IP from a season ago. The peripherals come out to a 2.68 FIP, so a 2.80 ERA is not expecting him to be unusually lucky.
You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Syndergaard will do this year. Next week, Brandon Nimmo goes under the forecast microscope.