One of the biggest pieces of excitement about Noah Syndergaard's potential has been his curveball. Sure Thor has a high velocity fastball, but so do multiple other guys on this staff. But the pitch which has been said to be his "hammer" has been his curve - which is his second plus pitch.
But what was interesting about his curve is that in many ways it didn't look like a curve at all.
Above is a pair of charts showing the movement (Well "spin deflection", but for simplicity I'll just say "movement" or "break" for the rest of this piece) and velocity of Thor's pitches in his first start, as displayed in Brooks Baseball's charts. I've circled and labeled each pitch, but focus upon the curve for now.
The Curveball certainly has what we would consider curveball velocity - about 15 MPH lower than Thor's fastball (Yeah it's in the low 80s, but that's normal for a curveball of a guy whose fastball velocity is in the mid-90s.). But notice the movement (see the chart on the right). The pitch has a large amount of horizontal movement - on average it moves around 7 inches away from right handed batters. This is around 10-12 inches difference from his fastball - it's a lot of relative movement.
But notice that there is a lack of vertical "break" - the drop (not including gravity) is around 2 inches on average on the pitch. That's not much of a hammer!
So what we have here is a pitch with a big sweeping motion but not a big drop - that doesn't sound like a curveball. It sounds like a slider.
Now, if you've followed Met pitchers for a little while, you may know our pitching coach has a thing for sliders, having introduced a certain type of slider (a "Warthen Slider" if you will) to a number of different Met pitchers (Matt Harvey for example). But this ISN'T the Warthen slider. The Warthen Slider typically moves and looks like the red circles in the graphs above - more "rise", less "sweeping motion" but much greater velocity, usually around 90 MPH. It's very close to a cutter. Syndergaard's "curve" has much greater sweeping action (and less "rise") and is much slower. This doesn't make it bad obviously - but calling it a hammer curve is inaccurate. Of course, this type of curve seems more likely to have a platoon split than a traditional 11-5 or 12-6 curve. Which is one reason you might see Warthen try to introduce the "Warthen Slider" into Thor's repertoire (it would fit nicely into a velocity/movement area that Thor doesn't have at the moment).
But for now, it's exciting to see Thor's hammer in person - even if it's more of a sideswing than a downswing.