In a Mets rotation that was crowded with talent at the outset of the 2016 season, it wasn’t going to be easy for any one pitcher to distinguish himself as the team’s best. But by the time the Mets exited the playoffs in October, it was abundantly clear that Noah Syndergaard had earned that distinction.
At the time, he was the last ace standing, which isn’t meant as a knock on the group of pitchers—Bartolo Colon, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo—who performed well down the stretch. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz were all shut down with injuries before the regular season came to an end.
It wasn’t just health, though, that made Syndergaard the best of the bunch, as he led Mets starters in ERA and FIP. It would have been interesting to see whether or not Syndergaard would have retained that status if Jacob deGrom—who had a 2.29 ERA before it blew up in his last three starts before he was shut down with a nerve issue in his elbow—finished the season healthy. But those starts still happened for deGrom, and Syndergaard’s work was nothing to sneeze when compared outside of his rotation, either.
Although he finished just eighth in the National League in Cy Young voting, Syndergaard was undoubtedly one of the best pitchers in baseball. Among qualified pitchers, his 2.60 ERA in the regular season ranked third in all of baseball, with Madison Bumgarner behind him and only Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester ahead of him. If there was a knock on his regular season, it was that he threw 183.2 innings, which likely hurt him in the Cy Young vote.
To top off the excellent regular season, Syndergaard had one of the best starts in Mets postseason history in the Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field. He went seven innings, struck out ten, walked three, and allowed just two hits, keeping the Mets even with the Giants as Madison Bumgarner, the active pitcher with the best postseason performance reputation in the game, kept the Mets off the board.
In terms of his stuff, Syndergaard threw even harder in 2016 than he had in 2015. His four-seam fastball averaged 98.86 miles per hour, according to Brooks, an increase of over one full mile per hour. His two-seam fastball averaged 98.42, and his slider—which touched 95—averaged 91.51. When it came to generating swings-and-misses, his fastballs were good, but his slider and changeup were particularly dominant.
Looking ahead, Syndergaard could very well be the Mets’ best pitcher again in the 2017 season. Despite having dealt with a bone spur last year, he’s the only one of the Mets’ young starting pitchers who isn’t coming off some type of surgery. If he remains healthy all year, it wouldn’t be surprising if Syndergaard were even better this year than he was last year.