New York right-hander Noah Syndergaard could be the best pitcher in Major League Baseball after finishing the 2015 campaign with a 3.24 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 166 strikeouts across 150 innings. Those surface statistics were fully supported by his underlying metrics: 3.25 FIP, 2.91 xFIP and 2.95 SIERA.
Syndergaard’s 10.0 K/9 rate was the best among the Mets’ talented rotation and led all rookie pitchers in strikeouts last season. What makes the 23-year-old even more impressive is the fact that he displayed outstanding control (1.9 BB/9) despite regularly hitting 100 mph with his fastball.
The young flame-thrower commenced the 2016 Major League Baseball season with a dominant outing against Kansas City, throwing six shutout innings over which time he garnered nine strikeouts. Syndergaard’s season-debut was made even more impressive by the fact that he got 16 swing-and-misses against the best contact team in baseball (Kansas City).
As if that was not remarkable enough, Syndergaard threw 25 sinkers at an average of 98.5 mph according to Brooks Baseball. Syndergaard’s sinker was the fourth-hardest in the majors last season (97.7 mph) and now the right-hander is topping the charts with the fastest sinker in the game (98.5 mph).
As noted by August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs.com, assuming everyone who pitched last year maintains the same level of velocity, Syndergaard’s “sinker would be the hardest-thrown sinker in baseball, relievers included. His slider would be the hardest-thrown slider in baseball, relievers included.
His changeup would be the hardest-thrown changeup in baseball, relievers included.” Syndergaard’s offseason development of the slider has made him a legitimate Cy Young candidate in 2016. Indeed, Syndergaard used his slider to induce eight swinging strikes against the Royals, a remarkable number in light of the fact that he used the slider for eight swinging strikes all of last year!
Syndergaard is also supported by a very capable New York bullpen that owns a 2.08 ERA and 1.10 WHIP this season (26/5 K/BB rate). Technically speaking, the Mets are 9-2 in Syndergaard’s last eleven home starts, including a perfect 6-0 versus .499 or worse opposition.
In contrast, Miami is just 1-5 in starter Jose Fernandez’s last six road starts and 1-4 in its last five games versus right-handed starters. Fernandez had Tommy John surgery on May 16, 2014 and will be on an innings limit this season (likely to be 180 IP). The ultra-talented 23-year-old yielded five earned runs on five hits over 5 2/3-innings in his season debut against the Tigers.
Take the Mets as Oskeim Sports’ Free Major League Baseball Pick for Tuesday.