ESPN.com’s Buster Olney ranked the Top 10 MLB Starting Pitchers in his latest ESPN Insider article this morning, and you know damn well I immediately checked to see if our own Noah Syndergaard was on his list. He was.
In his first start this year, Syndergaard announced his presence with authority, spinning a slider at a stunning 95 mph against the Kansas City Royals. No starting pitcher throws harder — in fact, nobody is even close in average fastball velocity — and despite the fact that Syndergaard struck out 218 batters and walked 43 batters in 2016, he’s still very early in his career, still learning. “Of all the guys on your list,” said one evaluator, “he’s probably got the best stuff.”
Personally, I would have had Syndergaard ahead of Sale and Kluber, but by this year’s All Star break, I’m betting that our hard-throwing phenom will be among the three best starting pitchers in the game.
Syndergaard, 24, is the only starter in the rotation who we can confidently say is 100 percent healthy and is going to deliver on what could end up being a historic season for a Mets starting pitcher. I don’t just say this as a biased fan of the Mets but there is plenty of empirical as well as statistical evidence to back this up.
After a not so Thor-like June and then the revelation that his performance was likely being affected by a bone spur in his elbow in July, I marveled at how Syndergaard responded in the last two months of the season while his rotation-mates were dropping like flies.
To begin, Syndergaard ended up posting the 4th best ERA in the National League at 2.65 in the second half. But if you dissect that even further, from August 16 until his final start of the regular season, only two pitchers posted a better ERA (2.19) in MLB. He allowed two runs or less in seven of his last nine starts.
Overall this season, Syndergaard posted the highest fWAR of any starting pitcher at a remarkable 6.5. He improved in just about every statistical category over his breakout rookie season including innings pitched (183.2 vs 150), K/9 (10.68 vs 9.96), HR/9 (0.54 vs 1.14), ERA (2.60 vs 3.24), and his FIP (2.29 vs 3.25) was almost a full point lower. Incredible.
Syndergaard saved his best performance of the year for the NL Wild Card Game against the San Francisco Giants on October 5. Thor matched zeroes with Giants’ ace, Madison Bumgarner in an epic pitcher’s duel that most fans won’t soon forget. Thor fired – and I do mean fired – seven dominating innings, allowing no runs on two hits and three walks, while striking out ten batters (tied for second most in a Wild Card game start).
This kid finished the season with a bang. If Syndergaard bursts out of the gate pitching as he did in his last ten starts of the season, his numbers will be off the charts. As a Super 2 player, Syndergaard becomes arbitration eligible after this season. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the New York Mets announce a 5-year deal for their young phenom and undisputed ace before the All Star break. There’s nobody in the rotation more deserving of an extension than Syndergaard.