Noah Syndergaard sent a clear message to the rest of the National League in the New York Mets opening day win over the Atlanta Braves. When you see the Mets on your schedule, count the days out to see if Syndergaard will start in the series. If he won’t, you’re in luck. If he will, you’re in for a long night.
But how can we react like that? It’s just one game, right. That’s true. But thanks to an increased use of a certain pitch, this one game had a much different feeling to it.
Noah Syndergaard threw sinkers on 21.4% of pitches last year. 48.8% today.
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) April 3, 2017
Syndergaard’s sinker is really a two-seam fastball that works into right-handed hitters and away from lefties. If he’s throwing it effectively, National League hitters are in a lot of trouble.
Power pitchers like Syndergaard are often challenging the upper part of the strike zone. That’s where a good deal of strikeouts — at least strikeouts on fastballs — come from. The downside is that fastballs up in zone also tend to produce long home runs. Generally, Syndergaard has had good enough power and control to avoid that, but it still happens.
But if he’s pitching down in the zone and cruising at 95-100 mph? That’s a whole different ballgame. That’s unfair.
The good news for hitters is that those pitches are more likely to be hit. The bad news? The ball won’t go anywhere. Sure, every now and again we might see a seeing-eye single. But really, that’s not where you get runs off of pitchers like Syndergaard. Singles are going to produce runs if men are on base and in scoring position. For that to happen, you need to string a few singles together, or have the pitcher get wild. Given that Syndergaard has generally had impeccable control and walked nobody on Monday, all we can say is good luck with that.
Of course, Syndergaard’s increased use of a sinking fastball didn’t dull his power. In fact, right out of the blocks, Syndergaard did something we’ve never seen before.
Noah Syndergaard just threw the fastest opening day first pitch ever recorded… 98.3 MPH🔥🔥🔥 (Previous record Garrett Richards 97 MPH, 2016)
— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 3, 2017
Syndergaard may not actually be Thor, but he does seem to come from a different world.
This one bit of bad news from this game is that a blister caused Syndergaard to leave early. The Mets already announced that his second start of the season will be pushed back a day. Fortunately, though, it’s just a blister. While those are troublesome, they’re not the kind of injuries that we have to worry about on a long-term basis.
His career marks entering the 2017 season are 2.89 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, and a 10.4 K/9 rate. Hitters hoping for some regression were dealt some bad news on opening day. Syndergaard is not regressing any time soon.
In fact, Monday suggested that the best is yet to come.