Mets fans have awaited the arrival of Noah Syndergaard for more than a year. Today, Thor arrives. Will he bring the thunder?
Noah Syndergaard has arrived.
New York Mets fans have been waiting for this moment since news broke that General Manager Sandy Alderson had traded Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that brought back two top prospects—catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, a laughable return for the Mets considering how things have gone since that time—and promised a better, brighter, more sustainable future for the Mets.
That time is now.
With Dillon Gee (groin) having been placed on the disabled list late last week, Syndergaard got the call he had been hoping for since the 2014 season began.
Syndergaard, in his own words, said that he didn’t deserve to be in the majors last season despite an expectation that he would arrive prior to now, per ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. “I was a little disappointed in myself,” Syndergaard said. “Quite frankly, I didn’t think I deserved it.
“I had innings left,” he added about a potential September call-up that did not materialize. “I wasn’t at my innings mark. But I didn’t feel like I pitched to the best of my abilities. Therefore, I didn’t deserve a chance to pitch in the big leagues. There were still some things I needed to work on. I’m working on those this offseason, right now, and I’m going to camp fighting for a job.”
Relying far too much on his fastball at Triple-A Las Vegas, Syndergaard was solid but unspectacular in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League: 133 IP, 154 hits, 144 strikeouts, 43 walks and a 4.60 ERA to pair with a higher-than-expected 1.48 WHIP. Opposing hitters hit a rock solid .293 against him, a strong indication that many who faced him were just sitting on his fastball.
In 2015, that same pitcher has looked like a completely different player. In five starts for Las Vegas, Syndergaard was absolutely dominant over 29.2 IP with 20 hits allowed, 34 strikeouts, just eight walks and a microscopic 1.82 ERA with an elite 0.94 WHIP. Most impressively, hitters were hitting at just a .192 clip, more than 100 points lower than his final mark last season.
Syndergaard was right when he said he didn’t deserve the call last year. He’s landing into LaGuardia right on schedule. And he’s not about to head back to Vegas on the Red Eye anytime soon.
At some point between now and the middle of next season, the Mets should have a starting rotation that includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Syndergaard. That’s a frightening one through five, and we haven’t even dissected contributions from the ageless Bartolo Colon, the enigmatic Jon Niese, the mysterious Rafael Montero or the mediocre Dillon Gee.
For this Mets team to cook up a winning recipe, Syndergaard has to be a key ingredient. This team—viewed internally and externally as a contender—is built on the strength of its starting pitching. With a defense that’s looked shaky at every position except for Gold Glove centerfielder Juan Lagares and an offense that’s scored three runs or fewer in approximately half of its contests, Syndergaard’s Mets debut comes at a time when this team needs an injection of life. That may seem like a strange thing to say about a first-place team that sits eight games above .500 entering Tuesday at 20-12, but with captain David Wright (hamstring, back) still without a timetable to return and the club fielding a variety of injuries on both sides of the baseball, this is a moment the Mets and Syndergaard both needed.
At 22 years old, Syndergaard is a matured man—and pitcher—upon his arrival to the major leagues. Again, via Rubin:
“I just didn’t want to have another season like I had last year in Vegas,” said Syndergaard. “Last year I struggled, just relying too heavily on my fastball. I’m very thrilled with where I’m at right now. I feel like I put in a lot of hard work and continue to become a well-rounded pitcher. I think it’s just the amount of focus I have on the mound. It’s night and day. I don’t really know what the key was to that. Something clicked and I was able to become just a little bit more comfortable with uncomfortable situations — like throwing breaking pitches in fastball counts and whatnot.”
He also admitted that he tuned out the noise that had become too audible last season:
“Last year I just paid too much attention to just, like, the Super Two deadline,” he said. “This year I didn’t pay much attention to it. I just went out every five days and tried to deliver a quality performance.”
This may not be how Syndergaard envisioned his arrival, but the important part is that he’s here. This may not be how Gee—a subject of constant trade rumors leading into the season after the Mets tried to replace him—envisioned ultimately losing his starting role. But neither of those things matter.
On Tuesday, Syndergaard will take the mound at iconic Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs in his first major league debut. It’s the start of a new era for the Mets and their fans. And it begins with Syndergaard’s arrival.