New York Mets: Let’s make Noah Syndergaard Elite

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets celebrates after defeating the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on September 30, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets won 1-0. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets celebrates after defeating the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on September 30, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets won 1-0. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will likely be traded in the next few days.  ‘Thor’ shares many parallels with ace Gerrit Cole, who was traded and immediately realized his true potential.  So how might a team do the same to Syndergaard?  CTTP investigates.

Over the weekend, we found out that Marcus Stroman was being traded to the New York Mets for a pair of pitching prospects.  The surprising part is that it wasn’t the Bronx bombers but rather the Mets, who are under .500 and aren’t anywhere near contending this season.  With the acquisition of Stroman, the next move appears to be a Noah Syndergaard trade.

Syndergaard himself sums everything up in one tweet.

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Syndergaard has been an excellent pitcher in the bigs since arriving in Queens, but he hasn’t found the elite consistency from year to year.  Thor had a monstrous year in 2016, striking out 218 hitters in 183 innings on his way to a sterling 2.60 ERA and 5.9 WAR.

He has yet to replicate that success but has still turned in a very strong 2018 season (3.03 ERA, 4.2 WAR) and an injury-shortened 2017 (1.4 WAR in 30 innings).

This year, Syndergaard is in the midst of another strong campaign racking up 2.7 WAR across 126.2 innings and continuing to show crazy pitches like THIS fastball and THIS changeup.

This is where we get to the Gerrit Cole comparison.

Cole had an elite season with the Pirates in 2015 where he racked up 5.1 WAR.  All his other years in Pittsburgh were above average but many felt Cole had hit a wall.

Cole was traded to the Astros in 2018 and they showed him the data and gave him a road map how to improve.  In his first year with the Astros, Cole exploded, racking up 276 strikeouts, a 2.88 ERA, and 6.0 WAR and has been thriving the past two years.

At the 2019 deadline, we find ourselves with another Ace in-the-making who appears to be stalling out thanks to the ineptitude of the New York Mets (#LOLMets).  So let’s take a look under the hood and see what a new team could do to make Noah Syndergaard elite.

Starting out, Syndergaard is primarily a FB pitcher (thrown 60% of the time) and complements his flaming heater with a CH (17%), SL (12%), and CB (11%).  Moving over to his Statcast page, we can see that while his FB/CB spin rates are below average.

What Syndergaard does do is an excellent job of preventing hard contact.  This season his exit velocity against (86.2), expected batting average (xBA .228), and expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA .270) are all well above average.

Since Syndergaard is an excellent contact manager, we need to find a different avenue for him to improve.  Looking at K%, he ranks 31st in the league at 23.8%, tied with the Twins’ Kyle Gibson and Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke.  The top starting pitchers in terms of K% are led by already mentioned Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, and Chris Sale with the rest of the top 10 being 30% or better.  For Thor to turn the corner, we need to add at least 6% to his K rate.  To provide a parallel, Cole improved his K% by 11 points after being traded.

So to get the New York Mets ace’s K rate up we are going to need to make a change to where he throws his pitches.  If you refer the pitches above, Thor’s two-seam and change-up have similar fading action.

One way to coax more swings/misses and ultimately more strikeouts would be to throw those pitches to the same location.  Looking at his fastball heat map, you can see Noah Syndergaard throws his fastball up in the zone which despite his elite velocity, may not be optimal due to its spin rate.  Compare that to his change-up heat map, where he pounds the bottom third of the zone.

We haven’t even covered Thor’s breaking ball which is an added wrinkle to torture hitters.  You can see he throws it away and out of the zone.  This is important though because this prevents hitters from locking into one part of the zone and looking for a fastball or change-up.

If he shelved the curveball’s horizontal break in favor of the slider vertical break, that would give him 3 pitches he could throw on one plane and baffle the hell out of hitters on his way to a 30% K rate and a step forward to being one of MLB’s premier pitchers.

A shift in fastball location could lead to more swings and misses and help his change-up play up even more.  I can imagine trying to hit a two-seamer at 99 and then a change-up at 91 that look identical and are being thrown to the same spot as something short of impossible.

Thor is already an excellent pitcher who probably has another level of performance in him.  With a few tweaks, he could be in the conversation for best pitcher in baseball and help your team capture October glory.

Next. Milwaukee Brewers Acquire Jordan Lyles. dark

The cost to trade for him will be steep but players this good with more upside are the rarest of commodities in baseball.  Current New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard would upgrade every contender’s rotation and would provide a seismic shift in World Series odds for whoever acquires him.