Noah Syndergaard was once Major League Baseball's next big thing. After a few seasons of dominance with the New York Mets from 2015 through 2018, it seemed he had inherited the title of baseball's best flamethrower. Then, just like that, he lost it. On Wednesday, Syndergaard -- now with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- got smacked around by the Cincinnati Reds. It was another start where he looked awful from the jump. Baseball might be done with him.
So far in 2023, Syndergaard is 1-4 in 12 starts. He has a 7.16 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and only has 38 strikeouts against eight walks, in 55.1 innings. He's allowed 71 hits, 12 home runs and opponents are hitting an incredible .313 off of him. On Wednesday, he allowed Reds rookie phenom Elly De La Cruz to do this:
That's 458 feet of home run.
As a 23-year-old rookie in 2015, Syndergaard was lights-out as he helped lead the Mets to the World Series. He started the team's only victory in that losing effort against the Kansas City Royals. He carried that success into 2016 when he went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings. He posted an fWAR of 6.0, and was ready for greatness.
Syndergaard had the look, and the stuff, teams dream about. At 6-foot-6 and 242 pounds, He was intimidating and boasted a fastball that sat averaged 97.1 mph and a slider that regularly came in at 89 mph. His low-90s changeup and curveball were also effective weapons.
Multiple injuries derailed his 2017 campaign, but he was back in 2018 to make 25 starts, going 13-4 with a 3.03 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 155 strikeouts in 154.1 innings. But he missed time that season with a strained ligament in his right index finger. Later in the year he contracted hand, foot and mouth disease. It was the beginning of a pattern.
By his own admission, Syndergaard's 2019 campaign was "mediocre" as he never got his slider to work. In a career-high 32 starts, he went 10-8 with a 4.28 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 197.2 innings. His fastball was as lively as ever (97.7 mph) bit nothing else worked. And that was the last time we saw the real Noah Syndergaard.
During spring training before the 2020 season, Syndergaard tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and missed the season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. During his recovery, Syndergaard struggled to find his velocity and felt elbow discomfort several times. It started a discussion about the folly of max effort pitching. Eventually, he made it back to the big leagues for two starts in 2021. His fastball topped out around 96 mph.
Syndergaard joined the Los Angeles Angels for the 2022 season and went 5-8 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 15 starts, but his velocity dropped considerably and he was no longer a strikeout pitcher. The Angels traded him to the Phillies at the deadline and he struggled through a few months in Philadelphia. He went 5-2 with the Phillies but had a 4.12 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and only struck out 31 batters in 54.2 innings.
The Dodgers signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal in the offseason and it appears to have been a terrible investment. Syndergaard's fastball now averages 92.3 mph, he's scrapped his devastating slider for a cutter and is throwing his changeup more than he ever has. Moreover, his strikeout rate (15.3) is the lowest of his career. The man nicknamed Thor has lost his thunderbolt. And his hammer. And we haven't seen his helmet in a while either.
Syndergaard left Wednesday's game with blister and fingernail issues on his pitching hand. A stint on the injured list is certainly possible. A this point, there's almost no chance he'll ever recapture the magic he once had.