It makes complete sense that Mets manager Terry Collins named Noah Syndergaard his Opening Day starter very early in spring training. Coming off the 2016 season he had, during which he was the Mets’ best starting pitcher, Syndergaard could very well repeat that feat this year, even in a more crowded, healthier starting rotation.
Of the four starters who threw at least 100 innings for the Mets during the regular season last year, Syndergaard’s 2.60 ERA and 2.29 FIP were both the best. And then he went and threw one of the best postseason starts in Mets history in the Wild Card game, a game that the team unfortunately lost.
And although he finished eighth in National League Cy Young voting, his ERA was the third-best in all of baseball last year among qualified starters. His FIP was the best in the game, one one-hundredth of a point better than the late Jose Fernandez.
Going into the 2017 season, the bar is high for Syndergaard. He’s the ideal starting pitcher, with an incredible fastball, great secondary pitches, a high strikeout rate, and a low walk rate. The only flaw in his game—which was talked about ad nauseam last year and will be again this year if the trend continues—is his struggle to prevent runners from stealing bases against him. If he improves in that department, it would be doubly beneficial. His numbers would presumably be even better than they’ve been in the past, and you wouldn’t have to constantly hear about the topic while watching or following one of baseball’s very best pitchers.
Last year, Syndergaard primarily threw fastballs, but in a slight change from his rookie season in 2015, he went to the two-seam fastball more often than the four-seam, according to Brooks Baseball. The larger change was his transition toward using a slider and away from using his curveball. His changeup use dropped slightly, but he still threw the pitch regularly.
Even if he just repeats what he did last year, Syndergaard might have a shot at the Cy Young award this year. And if he improves, that case would only be made stronger. It’s never an easy thing to do in a league that includes Clayton Kershaw, but it’s not outlandish to suggest that he could be on that level. As his age-24 season is about to begin, there’s every reason to be excited about Noah Syndergaard.