Perhaps it’s not as dramatic as the title indicates. Matt Harvey is still quite a good pitcher. There is no question that the New York Mets young staff is exciting to watch.
They are struggling a bit right now. Jacob deGrom is working through injury and is currently on paternity leave. Steven Matz looked lost in his 2016 debut after an amazing run in 2015 before getting hurt. Bartolo Colon is simply not human and Harvey is still struggling to learn what kind of pitcher he is.
Noah Syndergaard, however, is unbelievable.
Truth be told, Syndergaard was always the most exciting of the New York Mets young pitching arsenal. The flame throwing righty was always regarded highly, not just amongst Mets fans, but Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels and just about every other big-time Minor League analyst. Heading into 2015, he was a consensus Top 15 prospect in baseball. The Dark Knight could never claim that kind of accolade.
Then came the Twitter war, i.e. the only thing that ever worried me about Syndergaard.
Thor came to the Mets in a steal of a trade when they dumped fan-favorite and reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey on the Blue Jays. Syndergaard proceeded to tear up the minors and Dickey began to fade into a middle of the rotation arm.
Syndergaard had a rough go in his Triple-A debut to the untrained eye. He posted a career high ERA of 4.60 and a 1.48 WHIP. He allowed over 10 hits per nine which was nearly two more than any other season of his career. The thing that most minor league junkies will tell you is that the Pacific Coast League is one of, if not the most hitter-friendly league in the Minors. Most pitchers struggle in their first go round, but if you looked else where, Syndergaard was doing just fine. His walk rate was on par with his career norms as was his strikeout rate. And that fastball was hitting 100.
Syndergaard came out and quickly silenced critics in his second season in the PCL. He went 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. Well, all critics except Mets 24-7 that is.
The Twitter handle of the same name fired out at Syndergaard, telling him he was soft for missing a start and criticizing his 2014 performance in Triple-A. Syndergaard responded and started a back and forth that was, in all honesty, quite immature. It led to a sit down with the Mets.
Normally, this little social media spat shouldn’t bother anyone and should seem rather petty. Not in New York. Not when plenty of up-and-coming 22-year olds have fizzled out under the bright lights of the big city and its relentless media. If Syndergaard couldn’t handle some anonymous Twitterer, how was he going to handle the media after a bad start?
The question thus far has been remarkably well. He had a spectacular rookie debut, going 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA striking out 166 batters in 150 innings. This season, he has been even sicker.
Last night he outlasted Jose Fernandez in a pitcher’s duel en route to striking out 12 batters in seven innings of work… and he didn’t even throw 100 pitches. That is remarkable. It means that his command and control were in the proverbial zone, and the numbers don’t lie. He walked one batter and 72 of his 99 pitches fell for strikes. To reiterate, an unbelievable 73-percent of his pitches were strikes.
His first outing was equally impressive as he struck out nine over six innings while issuing a mere one walk. Syndergaard now finds himself in rather impressive company.
Noah Syndergaard’s 21 Ks are tied with Pedro Martinez and Dwight Gooden for most through 2 outings to start a season in #Mets history.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) April 13, 2016
Matt Harvey was long seen as the savior of the Mets pitching staff and all of the hoopla surrounding his arrival back in 2012 was on a Stephen Strasburg level. While Harvey has done very well despite a lost 2014, perhaps him walking the same path as Strasburg thus far — not reaching that blow-you-away potential just yet — tempered Mets expectations when it came to Thor. Sure, he was exciting with that heat, but an ace? Better than Harvey? Better than deGrom?
Syndergaard has gotten better and he has done it by adding a ridiculous 95-mile slider to his arsenal. Just watch.
Noah Syndergaard unleashed his slider yesterday, and baseball beware (with correct GIF) https://t.co/WuSBm7cNmF pic.twitter.com/6RAeMKBSuC
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) April 6, 2016
“There is no man alive who could have hit those three sliders [Syndergaard] threw to Morales,” Royals skipper Ned Yost told Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I don’t think I have ever seen a 95-mph slider. George Brett was in here [his office] and I asked him if he could have hit that, and he said no way.”
Syndergaard now has 21 strikeouts and two walks over his first two starts of 2016. He has allowed one run over that span and has thrown strikes 66 percent of the time. He led all starting pitchers in fastball velocity last season (97.4 mph) and this year he seems faster. This is not your Dark Knight’s rotation anymore. Citi Field is Thor’s house.
Syndergaard is a legit contender for a Cy Young Award, if not this year, certainly in the foreseeable future. Now the Mets need to get their offense figured out and get him some wins.