Another day, another pitcher who needs Tommy John surgery. The New York Mets announced today that RHP Noah Syndergaard will need the surgery to repair a torn UCL and will miss all of 2020. This is certainly not good news for the Mets, who are looking to contend in 2020 once the MLB season, but also for the pitcher known as “Thor.”
Mets Lose Syndergaard
For the first time since 2016, the 27-year old Syndergaard made over 30 starts in one season last year, as the Texas native made 32 starts for the Mets in 2019. Syndergaard has dealt with various injury issues over the past few seasons (lat muscle tear, strained ligament in finger, hand, foot and mouth disease), and despite one brief stint on the IL in June of last season, the 27-year old stayed healthy for most of the season. Despite that, Syndergaard recorded career highs in ERA (4.28) and WHIP (1.23), and there could multiple reasons for that.
One, there were rumors circulating last season that the tall right-handed pitcher was not a big fan of pitching to Wilson Ramos, and instead wanted to throw to Tomas Nido, a more adept catcher behind the plate. Considering that Syndergaard utilizes a sinker, changeup, and slider, all pitches he likes to put down and out of the zone, it’s understandable how that could have affected him last season.
Second, Syndergaard rarely used his slider during the first half of 2019. Syndergaard only used his slider, which has been a regular pitch in his repertoire since 2016, just 10.5%. However, things changed once Phil Regan became the Mets interim pitching coach in the middle of the season. During the second half of 2019, the 27-year old used the slider 20.9% of the time, which greatly benefited Syndergaard. 56 of Syndergaard’s 201 (27.9%) strikeouts were via the slider in 2019, and “Thor” generated swings and misses at a rate of 39.6% last season with the pitch (via Baseball Savant). By finding his slider once again, Syndergaard was able to give himself another weapon, and his improved numbers in the second half could have been the result of that (3.82 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.88 K/9).
Despite the somewhat positive results from Syndergaard in the second half, one thing that Mets fans would have probably liked to see from Syndergaard last season was better command. In 2019, Syndergaard left 20.8% of his pitches in the middle of the zone last season. That’s a bit of a departure from 2018, where Syndergaard left pitches in the middle of the plate at a rate of 19.9%. A small departure, yes, but an impactful one. Another departure from 2018 was the number of pitches he commanded down low. Back in 2018, about 37% of his pitches were down and out of the zone. Last season, just about 28% of his pitchers were down there.
Of course, the reason why Syndergaard may have left so many pitches may not have been due to poor command, but rather due to who was behind the plate. Nevertheless, it was a problem and something that Mets were certainly hoping would be better this season. That is, of course, before this news today.
Mets’ Rotation Entering 2020
The Mets always seem to deal with injury problems and this year looks to be no exception. The good news for the Mets is that they stockpiled some depth during the offseason, as Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha join the Mets in 2020. Both Wacha and Porcello join a rotation that already included Steven Matz, Marcus Stroman, and the reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. Both of them may not be Syndergaard, but both of them can be nice additions, especially if they can rebound after tough 2019 campaigns. And long as DeGrom performs like he did in 2019, and the other Mets starters pull their weight, they could be fine for 2020.
Sure, the loss of Syndergaard certainly stings, and it could sting even more if another one of their starters go down. But considering the circumstances surrounding the baseball world, as well as the fact that the season could be shortened due to the outbreak of COVID-19, this may not have been the worst thing to happen to the Mets.
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