Between getting nicknamed after a Norse god and pitching like one throughout most of his rookie campaign, Noah Syndergaard's struggles on Saturday in Tampa provided a jarring reminder of his mortality.
The almighty 22-year-old labored though the first inning against the Rays, ultimately allowing five runs through four innings after surrendering just eight total runs over the previous seven starts. Yet "Thor" still carries a 3.01 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and 26.3% strikeout percentage. Recent hiccup aside, Syndergaard has quickly blossomed into a front-line starter after an uneven start to his big league career. FanGraphs' Eno Sarris looked into the righty's rise as he continues to tinker with his arsenal.
Sarris explored the hurler's moneymaker:Tthe hammer curve that has netted a 18% whiff percentage. Syndergaard relies on the weapon heavily, unleashing it 386 times this season. According to Brooks Baseball, opponents are hitting .195 against it.
While gaining an uptick in velocity during the season, his curve has since reverted back down to 81 mph. He continues, however, to generate plenty of swings-and-misses due to an increased spin rate, which often proves as essential as pitch speed.
Sarris connected the fluctuating curveball velocity to Syndergaard's tinkering with a new "low-spin, high-velocity" slider, dubbed the "Warthen slider" due to pitching coach Dan Warthen frequently teaching the pitch. The rookie phenom confirmed the correlation, telling Sarris he "played with it a little just to pick up the rpms on the curveball."
So far Syndergaard has sparingly used the 88 mph slider, which Brooks Baseball credits for a 23.81% whiff percentage. After labeling himself "just a fastball / curveball / changeup guy" earlier in July, he has since toyed with a promising slider. For the opposition's sake, the last thing Thor needs is another thunderous hammer.