Noah Syndergaard Might Be the Best Pitcher in Major League Baseball
It was billed as a clash of the titans, two of the very best young power arms in the game, facing off against each other in New York.
For the visitors, it was the Miami Marlins and their young horse Jose Fernandez. For the home defending NL champ New York Mets, the man known as "Thor," Noah Syndergaard, took the hill. Very rarely do you get to see a pitching matchup with two young hurlers of this caliber going at each other, and for most of the night, the two didn't disappoint.
Fernandez and Syndergaard traded high-90s fastballs and sick breaking pitches for five innings, until Fernandez was pulled from the game after throwing 90 pitches. His final line was decent: five strikeouts, three hits and three walks while giving up just one earned run. While it wasn't his best performance of his career, it was really good.
But Syndergaard's was better.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 13, 2016
According to the Mets' TV broadcast, those 26 swings and misses were the most by a Mets pitcher in the last 15 years, and no pitcher in baseball right now is generating as many whiffs as Thor, who has struck out 42% of all batters he's faced this season.
Forty-two percent. Oh, and he's only issued one walk so far, too.
Hitters missed on 26 of 57 swings (45.6%) against Noah Syndergaard tonight. League average is 23.0%.
— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeScout) April 13, 2016
Particularly hard to hit was Syndergaard's slider, generating 10 swings and misses on 15 swings -- pretty understandable when a low-90s slider has this kind of movement.
— Dan Toman (@dantoman) April 13, 2016
In 13 innings this season, Syndergaard has generated 42 swings and misses on 191 pitches and tallied 29 strikeouts. Compare that to the pitcher almost everyone agrees is the very best in the game, Clayton Kershaw, who has made batters swing and miss 23 times in his first two starts this year, striking out 14 out of 52 batters in 15 innings.
And let's not forget about his fastball, which reaches triple digits on a regular basis.
According to PITCHf/x, Syndergaard is averaging 91.6 miles per hour on his slider so far this year, pairing that with a fastball that is averaging 97.5 miles per hour through his first two starts this season. No one throws either pitch as consistently hard as Syndergaard does. The league average speed for a slider is 83.8 miles per hour, and a fastball clocks in at 92.2 so far in 2016.
MLB.com's Statcast guru Mike Petriello also noted that the difficulty in hitting Syndergaard is more than just the velocity and break on his slider and fastball. It's also coupled with the advantage he possess simply by being tall with long arms. Because he's 6'6", Syndergaard's release point allows him to release the ball seven feet closer to the batter, meaning, instead of releasing the ball 60'6" inches away, his pitches are really only traveling about 53 feet.
When you combine his release point with his speed, no pitcher in baseball last year gave batters less reaction time to hit: just 0.383 seconds, according to Statcast. Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg were second, by the way, at 0.390 seconds.
Is it too soon to say Syndergaard is the best pitcher in baseball? Maybe, but if he isn't, it's getting awfully close.
Including the postseason, Noah Syndergaard has 213 strikeouts in 182 major league innings.
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) April 13, 2016
Based on track record, the edge still has to go to Kershaw, and perhaps Jake Arrieta as well, given they have both started the 2016 season red-hot, too.
We are just two starts into the season, but it seems clear that Syndergaard is quickly becoming the premier pitcher in the National League and is steaming toward the first of what could be many Cy Young Awards.
Simply put, right now, there is no one harder to hit in baseball than Thor.