Some strange things have been said about Noah Syndergaard over the past few days, and apparently it has to be stated that the 25-year-old has done a lot in his major league career and has pitched pretty well thus far in 2018. The former stems from comments made by the Mets’ current pitching coach, the latter from a seemingly-growing sentiment among Mets fans that Syndergaard’s performance so far this year has been bad.
As for the comments from Dave Eiland, the quotes that appear in the aforementioned Post piece are:
“I just don’t know where the expectations came from. He’s spent, what, 2 ¹/₂ years in the big leagues? So I don’t know where all the expectations came from, I wasn’t here for all that, but he is yet to do a whole lot at the major league level.
“Now is he capable of it? Yeah, but he is 25 years old. For the most part, every game he’s kept us in it and given us a chance to win.”
The hope here is that Eiland was either trying to motivate or defend one of his two aces, but even if either of those things was his intention, the lines read terribly. The “expectations” referenced in the first one were in response to Syndergaard not quite living up to the expectation that he’d be a Cy Young-caliber pitcher this year, but the “yet to do a whole lot at the major league level” line is just not good.
Presumably Dave Eiland is aware of these things, but Syndergaard has simply been one of the best pitchers in baseball since he came up to the major league level. Going back to the 2015 season, among pitchers who have thrown at least 400 innings since then, he ranks fourth in all of baseball with a 2.91 ERA. Only Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Jake Arrieta have been better, and Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner, and Jacob deGrom slot in just behind Syndergaard on that list.
After a solid rookie season that saw him post a very good 3.24 ERA and 3.25 FIP in 150.0 regular season innings, Syndergaard had some major highlights in the postseason. After starting Game 2 of the NLDS and losing, Syndergaard came back in Game 5 to pitch a dominant, crucial scoreless seventh inning out of the bullpen as the Mets defeated the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS. There, he gave up one run, struck out nine, walked one in five-and-two-thirds innings as the Mets won one of their four games in a sweep of the Cubs. And in the World Series, Syndergaard may not have been absolutely dominant, but he went six innings, gave up three runs, struck out six, walked two, and most importantly, helped the Mets win the only game they won in that series.
Not that there was any doubt about Syndergaard’s abilities by the time the 2016 season ended, but in the team’s lone postseason game of that season—the Wild Card game against the Giants—he struck out ten, walked three, and allowed no runs and just two hits in seven dominant innings of work. That performance came after a regular season in which he had a 2.60 ERA and 2.29 FIP, both of which were outstanding.
Syndergaard’s injury-shortened 2017 season was fun while it lasted, at least. He put up gaudy strikeout and walk rates in 30.1 innings and had a 2.97 ERA and 1.31 FIP in that short span. And for his career, he now has a 2.91 ERA and 2.62 FIP.
As for any concerns about his performance so far this year, well, they seem to be completely off base. Maybe they’re rare and this amount to arguing with a straw man, but Syndergaard’s 27.6 percent strikeout rate so far this year is currently his second-highest single-season mark to date. His 5.1 percent walk rate is tied for the second-best mark in his career. And his overall numbers—a 3.09 ERA and 2.78 FIP—are perfectly fine, even given the expectations of dominance.
Among qualified starting pitchers this season, Syndergaard ranks 23rd in all of baseball with that 3.09 ERA. His 2.78 FIP ranks 12th among the same group. In the National League alone, he’s 12th in ERA and sixth in FIP. If you’re looking hard for a criticism, Syndergaard has “only” averaged about 98 miles per hour on his fastball so far this year. Even then, his fastball velocity averaged in the 97-98 range in the earliest parts of the 2015 and 2016 seasons before reaching its peak later in those seasons.
All of this—the career history and the performance this year—should be obvious. Noah Syndergaard has accomplished a great deal in his still-very-young career. He’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball so far this year, too. And given the outstanding peripherals, it might not be long before he’s even higher on that list of 2018 ERA leaders.