Keep Noah Syndergaard Paired With Rene Rivera
There is a wealth of information which proves to us CERA is not a reliable source of information upon which to base decisions. The sample sizes are too small to draw any sort of conclusions, and there are too many variables at play like home plate umpires and opposing lineups. Despite all of that, the pairing of Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera seems significant.
Certainly, it felt that way in Washington last week. After a Trea Turner leadoff single, Syndergaard retired the next 16 batters in a row striking out nine of them. Syndergaard’s final line was 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. The last time Syndergaard pitched seven innings walking none and striking out 10 was April 20, 2017. His catcher that day? Rene Rivera.
Now, Syndergaard has had plenty of dominating performances since he was last paired with Rivera. That said, he seemed to be much more consistently dominant with Rivera behind the plate. For example, Syndergaard started the 2017 season allowing just two earned runs in his first three starts while averaging 6.1 innings per start. In those games, he struck out 20 and walked none. Syndergaard would have similar runs in 2016 including but not limited to his GREAT performance in the 2016 Wild Card game.
Overall, Rivera has caught Syndergaard 29 times. In those 29 games, Syndergaard has a 2.52 ERA. When Syndergaard is caught by another catcher, he has a career 3.57 ERA. When Syndergaard is caught by Rivera, he has a 1.9 BB/9 and a 10.3 K/9. When he is caught by anyone else, Syndergaard has a 2.2 BB/9 and a 9.5 K/9. Again, these numbers could be explained by sheer randomness, but seeing the disparity, it does call for further examination as to why the discrepancy.
On that front, Rivera has long been noted for his pitch framing skills. In fact, he has elite pitch framing skills. Specifically, he has quite the ability to frame that low pitch. As the Hard Ball Times put it in 2014, Rivera’s ability allows “pitchers to have dominion over the low, outside corner, nabbing strikes that hitters would have to lunge to make contact with. It seems like it was part of a consistent strategy for Rivera and his battery mate to nip that corner on 0-0.”
Considering how Syndergaard likes throwing his sinker, he needs a catcher like Rivera to thrive. When you also consider Rivera’s years of experience behind the plate, Rivera also serves as a mentor of sorts for Syndergaard. He knows how to read Syndergaard knowing when he does and doesn’t have it. He knows what pitch to call in each situation. There is a comfort between the two, and based on Rivera’s skill behind the plate matching Syndergaard’s ability on the mound, they bring out the best in one another.
With the Mets making a push for the Wild Card and trying to get the best out of their starters, they should be pairing Syndergaard with Rivera. That goes double when there is a day game after a night game. As an aside, when the two aren’t paired, Rivera should be counseling Tomas Nido, a catcher who has a similar skill set and has gotten similar dominance from Syndergaard.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the Mets need to do what is best for their starters. Like in 2016 and 2017 and with his last start, Syndergaard needs to be paired with Rivera.