Baseball

Mets Spotlight: Thor’s Journey Is Never An Easy One

The one thing you can count on is that the Mets will always try and destroy anything special about themselves. But this being the Mets, they can’t ever be consistently successful at anything, which every so often works to their benefit. Take their acquisition of Marcus Stroman. There is no one on this planet who believes that getting Stroman was part of some short-term or long-term plan. Most believe he was insurance to make up the gap when either Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard were traded mere hours later.

But neither happened. And even with Wheeler likely to move along in the winter in free agency, the Mets are better than they were for 2020 with Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Stroman. It certainly wasn’t the plan, but thanks to the Mets inability to always shoot themselves in the face, they’ve come out ahead.

And their handling of Syndergaard all season matches that kind of confusion and goofiness. From spring training on, Thor has heard trade rumors and whispers that the Mets didn’t want him anymore. Of course, deGrom heard the same thing during the winter, and then he ended up with a fat new contract extension. You never know which way the wind blows with the Mets.

It seems ridiculous that the Queens Club would ever consider moving Syndergaard along. After all, this is probably still the best pure stuff in the game, and in the team photo if it’s not. He’s also under team control for another two seasons after this one, so even if he gets a good settlement in arbitration the next two years he’s still probably coming in at value. He’s also only 26. Could you ever get more than 75 cents on the dollar for him? What were the Mets thinking?

Well, this is the Mets, so there’s never a guarantee they ever were. Certainly health played a role. Syndergaard missed most of 2017 with arm problems, and only made 25 starts last year. Considering how hard he throws everything, the idea that his arm would never be able to hold up isn’t a farcical notion. So naturally, because logic never applied to Queens, he’s taken the ball for every start this season. Maybe that takes its toll down the road, or maybe he’s finally matured into the burden he asks his arm and body to carry.

Syndergaard has clashed with the Mets brass in the past, as he definitely is a free thinker. But that would seem ultimately petty, at least it would for most any other organization in any sport. But again…METS.

Perhaps the Mets thought, or still think, that Syndergaard is just never going to live up to what they original hype, what the stuff suggests, and what he’s flashed in the past. Considering he’s got their repertoire, Thor has never vaulted himself into Cy contention with deGrom or Scherzer or Verlander or the like. His best season was ’17, but his strikeout rate has declined in each of the next two seasons. And his walks have increased.

However, it’s not like his stuff has got worse. His fastball averages 98 MPH, and while he’s lost velocity on both the slider and curve, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Syndergaard has gone away from his slider more this season, but has used his four-seam more rather than a sinker, even though he threw a sinker at 97 goddamn miles-per-hour. Still, you’d think you’d get more Ks from him considering how hard he throw.

But like we discussed with Giolito earlier today, or rather opposite of that, Thor doesn’t use the upper part of the zone with it nearly as much:

Which seems a shame, because there’s gold for him higher than he’s using his fastball:

But he just doesn’t use it as a put-away pitch:

He also doesn’t use his curve enough at all, especially with two strikes, because it gets half whiffs when anyone swings at it. Just overthinking things?

Still, you’d bet on something being unlocked with Syndergaard much more than him just being a pretty good #2 starter–which admittedly is all the Mets need him for when they have deGrom. But when you’ve got this guy for cheap for the next couple years, why let him go?

It’s the Mets, so what they really want is to be cheap. And while Thor isn’t expensive yet, the prospects he would have brought back are even cheaper. And now that Pete Alonso is up, the Mets don’t have much in the minors. But still, with this pitching staff next year, and Alonso, Conforto, and McNeil in the lineup, the Mets can’t be all that far away from competing. That is if they’d stop doing dumbass things like getting Robinson Cano‘s name and wasting what little money they deign to spend. Or trying to crowbar Jay Bruce into the lineup like last year. Or playing Todd Frazier ahead of J.D. Davis at third.

But it’s the Mets. You can always overdose on logic when studying them.

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