Friday, August 10, 2018

N.Y. Mets: Thor's Hammer Missing its Mark

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

deGrominator * Super Matz * Dark Knight * Thor * Wonder Wheeler

New York Mets: Is It Wrong To Demand More Than Six Innings From a Superhero?

The pragmatist in me just can't help it.  But as the trade deadline approached, I began pondering Noah Syndergaard's future with the Mets.

Thor turns 26-years old later this month.  His baseball card lists him at 6'6", 240 lbs., and hailing from Texas.  In other words, he's young, wears his size very well, and truth be told, Texas is a freaking baseball factory.


As a rookie, Syndergaard is instrumental in helping the Mets win a National League pennant.  Called up on May 12, 2015, Thor makes 24 regular season starts.  He goes 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA, and 1.047 WHiP.  He gives up an unsightly 19 home runs in only 150 innings pitched, but strikes out 166 for a 10.0 K/9 average.


He demonstrates marked improvement in his sophomore season.  In 2016, Noah Syndergaard is an All-Star.  He posts a 2.60 ERA through 30 starts and 183.2 innings pitched.  He strikes out 218 (10.7 K/9 average) and limits batters to 168 hits and 43 walks for a (slightly elevated) 1.149 WHiP.  He leads the league with a 2.29 FIP, and gets his home runs allowed under control with a league leading  0.5 HR/9 average.


During the ensuing off-season Noah loses his Marvel comic mind, foolishly bulking up over the winter.  Sure enough, after seven starts his regular season ends.

Bad, and dumb.

This season Noah Syndergaard is pitching with mixed results:
  • 3.17 ERA; presently hovering at a three year high.
  • 1.216 WHiP; presently at a career high (the result of 90 hits and 17 walks allowed through 88 innings pitched).
  • 2.70 FIP; presently at a three year high.
  • 9.2 H/9; presently at a career high.
  • 1.7 W/9; roughly on par.
  • 9.5 K/9; a career low, to date.

His episode with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is a recent event, and therefore has little bearing on his overall pitching line.  But this is a comeback season for him; the numbers are what they are.  That said, legions of other pitchers dream of struggling so well.  In the meantime, there is still time left in this season for Syndergaard to get his stats more in line with his own standards, and fan expectations.


In 2015, he averaged 6.2 innings per start.  In 2016, he averaged 6.1 innings per start.  Last year was a complete mess, in which he averaged just 4.1 innings through seven starts.  This season, he is averaging 5.2 innings per start.  It just so happens that in 76 career starts (77 appearances) Noah is averaging just 5.2 innings per start.  If I omit 2017 from his line, he still only averages 6.0 innings per start.

Some might argue that equates to being nothing more than a quality start specialist, and I do mean that in a most facetious way.  As a six inning specialist, he nevertheless owns a career 2.95 ERA, and 1.122 WHiP, while averaging 8.2 hits allowed, 1.9 walks, and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

... key words being, nine innings.

Noah Syndergaard is yet to pitch a complete game.  I understand these days that's a completely outdated point of view ... but only because you the reader may think so.  He'd obviously qualify as a number one or number two starter for any team in baseball.  As it stands, however, his starts on average require three innings of relief.  If you want to argue that's the way the game is played these days, so be it.  This is your game too.  I understand change, and have spent the last 45 years watching the game evolve before my very eyes.  But I also expect "elite" starters to limit bullpen usage as best they can.

Through 24 starts in 2015, Thor pitched into the eighth inning six times, and ten times completed seven full innings.  In 2016, he pitched into the eighth just three times, but completed seven full innings twelve times through thirty starts.  This season, he has pitched into the eighth just once, and has completed seven full innings just three times through fifteen starts, to date.

According to FanGraphs, his velocity is in line with his career average.  Yet, batters are pulling 3.15% more of his pitches than in 2015/2016, and they're hitting line drives at a rate of 24.8%, which is exactly four points higher than his 2015/2016 average rate.  

So here's my question: when does he start learning to become more of a craftsman, instead of pitching as hard as he can, for as long as he can?  

I'd prefer Noah utilize his curve ball more particularly early in the count, and to shave a few mph off his change-up.  Both I believe are superior set-up pitches for his slider which I feel he features too often.  Between that and insisting on throwing 100mph all the time, something called the Law of Diminished Returns is a certain eventuality.  I'm not saying he's there yet.  But at some point he needs to starting working smarter, instead of continually working harder.

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