Noah Syndergaard got off to a poor start this season, and even though he threw some gems following a brutal month of April, the rest of his first half of the season was a bumpy ride that wasn’t clearly taking him on a path to being his usual dominant self. But since the All-Star break, he’s been fantastic, pitching seven innings in his first three starts and seven-and-one-third innings in his fourth, putting up a 1.91 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 7 walks in those 28.1 innings.
That sort of performance serves as a nice reminder that Syndergaard is fully capable of being one of the better pitchers in baseball, as he has been over the course of his major league career. Among starting pitchers who have thrown at least 300 innings since the beginning of the 2015 season, Syndergaard’s 3.18 ERA ranks 11th out of 159.
As for what he’s been doing differently since the break, well, let’s take a look. Syndergaard had his hardest-throwing month of the season in July, though his 98.64 mph four-seam fastball and 98.47 mph two-seam fastball/sinker, on average per Brooks Baseball, weren’t drastically higher than what he had been throwing in previous months. A little extra on those pitches probably doesn’t hurt, though.
The biggest change has been in Syndergaard’s pitch mix. Although he had thrown his slider 21 percent of the time in March and April, Syndergaard moved strongly away from throwing the pitch as the rest of the first half progressed. He wasn’t confident in the pitch and said publicly: “I don’t know what happened to having one of the best sliders in the game to now having zero confidence in throwing it.”
In total, Syndergaard threw his slider just 10.5 percent of the time across the first half, far less each of the past three seasons that saw him throw it 20 to 21 percent of the time in each of them. But he was right that his first half slider wasn’t working. Opponents swung and missed at just 14.6 percent of those sliders before the break, and the pitch averaged 88.9 miles per hour.
In his four starts since the break, however, he’s thrown the slider 21.7 percent of the time, and opponents have swung and missed at 34.1 percent of those sliders. And the pitch has averaged 90.0 miles per hour in those starts. Like his fastball, it’s not a huge increase in velocity, but it seems like it could be a significant one.
Pitching, like pretty much everything in baseball, is often about adjusting. The first half version of Noah Syndergaard was a bit lost without his best weapon. Working through that scenario, a pitcher can either find other ways to get hitters out or find that best weapon again, and it’s pretty clear Syndergaard has done the latter in these past four starts. And that version of him is a pitcher the Mets should be happy to have kept at the deadline—and one they shouldn’t look to trade in the future, either.