Syndergaard’s Greatness Should Be Celebrated, Not Nitpicked
After the Mets home opener, Nelson Figueroa discussed how Noah Syndergaard has too much talent and ability than to need 11 pitches to strike out Yan Gomes. If you have watched the post-game over the past few years, this has been a common refrain with Figueroa, and it is something which has been espoused elsewhere.
Essentially, the gist is Syndergaard is not getting the most out of his talent, and as a result, he is not the dominant ace many expected him to be when he first burst onto the scene in 2015. By and large, this is an unfair characterization.
Just focusing on Thursday’s start, Syndergaard threw 98 pitches over six innings. He allowed just one hit with two walks while striking out six. If that were any other pitcher, even Mets ace Jacob deGrom, we would consider that to be a very good start, and there would not be any ensuing criticism.
If you dig deeper, you realize Syndergaard was even better than the numbers suggest. For those watching, it was obvious Syndergaard was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Pat Hodberg. He’s a notoriously bad home plate umpire.
In 2015, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said of him, “He’s a young umpire, and he needs to figure out a better strike zone.” (Jennifer Lagosch, MLB.com). Apparently, things haven’t improved with Michael Fulmer said of Hodberg last year, “I made my fair share of mistakes, but there’s 10 calls about pitches inside the zone that he called balls. I let him know he missed 10.” (ESPN).
Going back and examining that second inning, Hodberg missed a number of calls
Noah Syndergaard's called balls and strikes through two at Citi Field pic.twitter.com/A7okNhm7hJ
— David Adler (@_dadler) April 4, 2019
Going deeper, Juan Soto led off the inning with a walk, but according to Gamecast, at least two of the called balls were strikes. Those types of umpire errors contribute to Syndergaard’s difficult inning and perceived under-performance.
All of that aside, Syndergaard was very good on Thursday as he has been throughout his Major League career.
Since his Major League debut in 2015, he leads all starters in average velocity. He has a 2.69 FIP, which is second in the Majors to just Clayton Kershaw. His HR/9 is second to just Lance McCullers. His 2.97 ERA is fifth behind Kershaw, deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner. His K/BB ratio is sixth putting him behind Kershaw, Chris Sale, Josh Tomlin, Scherzer, and Corey Kluber.
Looking at his stats, the biggest knock you have against him is his fWAR since he was called up to the majors ranks just 15th. Considering there are 30 teams in baseball, this definitively shows Syndergaard pitches like an ace. Overall, when you break down his stats his name comes up among pitchers who have won Cy Young awards and who are widely regarded as aces.
As deGrom has shown since the beginning of the 2018 season, any pitcher has room for improvement, and that would certainly apply to Syndergaard. That said, by any measure Syndergaard is a great pitcher who should be celebrated instead of nitpicked after his starts.