New York Mets: The Noah Syndergaard conundrum

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 04: Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 4, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 04: Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 4, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Since their World Series appearance in 2015, the New York Mets have struggled for subsistence. Nowhere has it been more evident than with Noah Syndergaard.

Noah Syndergaard has longed to be a star for the New York Mets. His persona, mentality, and physical composure made him the perfect fit. What has gone awry in recent seasons and how can it be rectified?

The Mets’ recent history has been marked by the dismay of many a lapsed expectation. Often propped up by an invigorating conclusion to the season prior, then coupled with a rapacious start to the new season.

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This trend is then followed by a mid-season sag, typically in June, where a series of devastating losses debilitates the entire season and all of its hopes. The cyclical process that the New York Mets seem to be mired in cost them a postseason berth in 2019, as they fell just a few games short.

The biggest culprits for the Mets failure last season would clearly be the bullpen as a whole – with a specific emphasis on Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz. Both newly acquired arms supposing to bolster the back end of the bullpen fell victim to a number of meltdowns of epic proportions.

Another hitch in the works for the New York Mets over the past three seasons was the lack of consistency provided by Noah Syndergaard. 2017 can be highlighted by the severe lat strain that held him out all but the first month. 2018 was a season of fits and starts in which he pitched to a sparkling 3.03 ERA.

However, there was no fluidity to it, missing chunks of time for arm discomforts and Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. He had to labor to get the outs unlike one with such electric velocity and movement on his pitches should.

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2019, while far from unproductive, was unseemly in comparison with the high standard he had set with his career numbers. Reaching a career-high in innings at 197, Syndergaard logged a 4.28 ERA – his highest mark since the 3.24 he set in his rookie season.

In one respect, it is a relief that he was able to make a full slate of starts, now it is incumbent upon him to improve his output. If not, many fear that he will never be able to reach the untapped potential he was once believed to have. The key has always been his slider.

Perhaps an unfair comparison, yet still relevant, Jacob deGrom‘s fastball might not as consistently reach the 100 mph threshold as Syndergaard – although he is not far off. Still, deGrom’s fastball eludes the bats of opposing batters much more frequently than his teammate. The difference lies in the spin rate of the pitch – deGrom’s appears as if it is rising to batters whereas Noah’s remains upon the same plane.

Due to this one might dub Syndergaard high-speed four-seamer as more hittable than deGrom’s. Thus the importance lies upon his slider, sitting at around 88 mph, down from the 92 mph that he regularly saw earlier in his career.

A major revolution in deGrom’s game was the adoption of a razor-sharp slider that breaks down and away from right-handers. This pitch has a particular resonance because it sits in the same plane as his fastball, yet while his fastball appears to rise this pitch plummets.

Syndergaard’s slider was far from ineffective in 2019, as when he had his greatest success his slider and fastball were working in conjunction. When that pitch was ineffective, as it was inconsistent, it floated over the heart of the plate where batters could tee it up.

It is unfair to prescribe Syndergaard to do what deGrom did, but if the slider does not improve there is hardly a solution other than reshaping his process of pitching.

A new approach of Wilson Ramos, picked up from Minnesota’s Mitch Garver, of resorting to catching on one knee might greatly increase the output of called strikes at the bottom of the zone. When Garver opted to employ this approach, his framing ranks grew exorbitantly. This is of particular interest to Noah because he struggled to get the low strike in 2019 and his repertoire relies upon it.

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All in all, the 2020 season holds boundless potential for everyone. The proper adjustments must be made to seize it.