The New York Mets scratched out the first win of the 2016 season in their 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Throughout the game it was evident through so many foul balls and swings and misses the Mets hitters were having difficulty picking up pitches, which is normal during the first month of the season. Thankfully, Noah Syndergaard aka Thor was ready.
There were adjustments in Syndergaard’s delivery and pitch selection which, if sustained during the season, will lead him into the Cy Young conversation.
Noah Syndergaard: 6.0 IP (W), 0 R, 3 H, 9 SO, 1 BB
Syndergaard unveiled a new pre-pitch stance, appearing as though he was pitching from the stretch with his feet in-line with home plate and his shoulder closed off to the hitter. Taking away the excess movement of starting from the prototypical windup with feet and shoulders open to home plate and forced to turn the front shoulder and feet closed towards home plate leads to two positive results:
- Syndergaard’s body, most importantly his head and eyes, stay on a straight path towards home plate and his target. This results in a much greater chance the baseball goes toward the target.
- Syndergaard’s pitching motion has a greater chance of repeating itself every pitch, resulting in a more consistent release point. The more consistent a release point, the more consistent command for his full repertoire of pitches (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup), rather than one or two as we saw last season (fastball and curveball).
Yesterday, Syndergaard showed great fastball command, throwing fastballs at a 73% strike rate with a whiff/miss rate of 13.3%, in-line with his 68% strike rate and 11.6% whiff/miss rate during 2015. The difference lies in his changeup and slider usage and whiff/miss rates.
In 2015, Syndergaard posted a 14% changeup usage rate with a strong 18% whiff/miss rate compared with a 22% usage rate and 25% whiff/miss rate yesterday afternoon. An even bigger disparity lies in Syndergaard’s 2015 slider usage at a low 3.18% with a high 24.42% whiff/miss rate compared with his slider usage rate yesterday over 17%, with an exceptional whiff/miss rate at 37.5%.
The best dominance in Syndergaard’s slider was seen in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two-outs facing Kendrys Morales. Syndergaard threw three straight sliders, ranging from 93 to 95 mph, resulting in three swing and misses by Morales. Going into the game, I would have said three straight sliders would be the last sequence of pitches thrown by Syndergaard in that situation. Clearly, Morales thought the same.
Yesterday’s success shows the importance in Syndergaard throwing more sliders and changeups with sharp strikeout movement allowing him more strikeout pitches when he struggles to control his curveball (his curveball was thrown at an abysmal 18% strike rate with one swing and miss).
The ex-Brewers closer and now middle reliever Jim Henderson showed more than the scouting reports credit him for, showing a fastball with nice arm-side/two-seam run sitting 95 to 97 mph. Although many of Henderson’s sliders showed average movement, he flashed a sharp slider low and away to Omar Infante.
Stat of the Night
Syndergaard induced 18 swing and misses, a combined 19.57% whiff/miss rate. Most strikeout pitchers have a 20% to 30% whiff/miss rate for a single pitch during the course of a game (Aroldis Chapman Baseball Reference” href=”http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/chapmar01.shtml” target=”_blank”>Aroldis Chapman’s fastball) but never this high for their full repertoire of pitches combined.
Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.