There are many reasons for Mets fans to be excited about their team, from Yoenis Cespedes’ tape-measure home runs to the phenom Michael Conforto, to the dominance of Jacob deGrom.
There is one pitcher who stands head and shoulders above them all, literally (he’s 6’6″), and that is the one known as Thor.
Noah Syndergaard has been just as advertised since he arrived to the Mets around this time a year ago.
Syndergaard, a Texas native, is intimidating in the way another hard-thrower from the Lone Star State was, Nolan Ryan.
In Game 3 of last year’s World Series, Syndergaard cemented his status as one of the Mets leaders when he threw the first pitch of the game high and tight on Alcides Escobar.
Matt Harvey used to be the most intimidating pitcher on the Mets’ staff, but he gradually ceded the roll to Syndergaard. If Game 3 of the World Series was the start, their performances this season has sealed the deal for Syndergaard,who has become the ace of the staff.
“Harvey Day” has given way to “Thor Time” at Citi Field.
With his blond hair flowing out of his cap, menacing look into the plate, and the over-the-top delivery, Thor might be the most forceful pitcher in baseball right now.
You can tell his impact by the amount of “Syndergaard 34” shirts seen at Citi Field, possibly outnumbering those of Cespedes, deGrom, or the Captain, David Wright, especially among the younger Mets fans.
Syndergaard has had a historic start to his career in many ways. He joined Stephen Strasburg as the second pitcher in major league history to record 230 or more strikeouts and issue less than 50 walks in his first 32 career starts.
Last season, Syndergaard racked up 166 strikeouts in 150 innings, and this season, he has 76 K’s in 60 1/3 innings.
When one thinks of the biggest strikeout pitchers in baseball, Syndergaard is right up there with Max Scherezer of the Nationals, who said “strikeouts are sexy,” and the Yankees bullpen trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances.
His 1.03 walks-and-hits-per-innings-pitched (WHIP) in his first 32 starts is 1.03, which is fourth among starters in modern Major League Baseball history, and second in Mets historey behind Matt Harvey’s 0.96.
In Mets history, he is ranks fifth with 14 starts of one run or less through his first 32 career starts, behind Harvey (18), Dwight Gooden (16), Jon Niese (16), and Jacob deGrom (15).
On Sunday against the Brewers, Syndergaard allowed an unearned tun in the first inning, and then took over. He struck out ex-Met Kirk Nieuwenhuis to get out of the frame, and then struck out two in the second, three in third, and two in the fourth to give him eight K’s in the first four innings.
After not getting a strikeout in the fifth (shocking), he got two more in the sixth and one in the seventh to give him 11 for the game.
This was the second straight start he racked up 10+ strikeouts, after he got ten against the Nationals last Tuesday when he outdueled Scherzer in a 2-0 Mets win.
In the seventh, he allowed singles to Hernan Perez and Alex Presley to open the inning. When he threw one in dirt while pitching to Ramon Flores, catcher Rene Rivera got Presley trying to reach second. He then struck out Flores and got Aaron Hill to ground out to get out of the inning.
That was it for Syndergaard, and he put together another impressive line: 7 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts, and 109 pitches, 79 of which were strikes.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of relying on Syndergaard to give them a big outing, “We said it yesterday, even with Jake (deGrom), five innings, you know, Matt (Harvey) didn’t get us deep into the game, Bartolo (Colon) didn’t get us deep in a game, we said last night, this kid’s gotta get us deep into the game. This kid’s gotta step up and give us an outing, and he did. At his age and with his experience, to have to ride him like that, that’s a complement to what he’s done and what he’s accomplished so far and his maturity because he knew it. Those guys know, there’s a lot of nights, starting pitchers say, ‘hey, look, we’re short in the bullpen, I can go as long as you need me. He didn’t say that today, but he knew he had to do it.”
Collins said of Syndergaard lacking command of his fastball early int he game and working around it, “I thought, one of the things we said earlier, was that he wasn’t getting his slider over, and when he started to get it over, it changed the whole game. He stayed with it, kept using it. We thought that was a big difference; no longer could they just hunt the fastball. He was getting other pitches in the strike zone, and when he does that, he’s tough to hit.”
Collins said of Syndergaard continuing to try to get over all his pitches and the credit catcher Rene Rivera deserves in continuing to call those pitches, “Well, that’s true, Rene did a nice job today making sure he pitched. That’s kind of a philosophy, we talk about it with all the time Jake (deGrom) last year, a couple years ago when he first came on the scene, that he continued to use his pitches, and I think that’s the key to pitching. Have some doubt in the hitter’s head about what you’re gonna throw, and if you can do that, you’re going to have some success because, as a hitter, there’s no way you can look for two or three different pitches. You have to single something out, and if you’re a pitcher that can get something else over, you’re going to get some outs.”