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Noah Syndergaard—overrated?

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Taking a deeper look at San Diego’s target of interest

San Diego Padres v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As has been reported on this site—and on about every sports-related outlet on the world wide web—the Padres are interested in acquiring the services of Mets starter Noah Syndergaard.

This past week, Mr. Dennick relayed reports indicating that the New York front office was interested in integrating the Padres into a three-team deal involving the Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman; before that, John Genarro wrote an impassioned piece beseeching Padres GM A.J. Preller to not trade second baseman Luis Urias in any potential deal for Noah Syndergaard.

While much of the conversation around here has been in reaction to Mets-centric reports, and trepidation surrounding what Syndergaard’s trade cost might be, I thought it might be high-time to conduct a thorough analysis of what, exactly, the Padres might be getting themselves in a deal for the 26-year-old righty.

Specifically, I wanted to test an assumption that’s been somewhat implied in a lot of local sports talk connected to this subject—the assumption, that is, that Syndergaard is over rated.

It’s a fair enough question. After all, Syndergaard plays in New York, and, around here, we understand that pretty much any player from New York or Boston is elevated in the estimation of the national baseball columnists that fuel popular discussion.

Secondly, Syndergaard, in the year he’s been most likely to be moved, has been rather underwhelming this year. While playing for a losing club under his second arbitration contract, the flamethrower has logged just a 4.33 ERA in 126.2 innings.

So the question remains—is Syndergaard the “ace” he is often characterized as being, or is he something of a product of large market hype?

2019

First off, we should take a deeper look at what, exactly, has been going on with Thor this season. Though his ERA is high, his FIP of 3.64 is readily acceptable. His 8.95 K/9 rate is right in line with last year’s 9.04 number, and his HR/FB and GB% are right around league average or better. His .315 BABIP against is on the nose with his .315 career mark.

Looking at Statcast, we do see that his repertoire has changed somewhat in 2019. The most notable change is that he is throwing fewer sliders and more four-seam fastballs this season. Could that be explainable for his slight uptick in homers allowed this year? Indeed, hitters have been able to loft balls a bit more against the righty in 2019, with a launch angle of 9.7 against him—up from 6.5 last year and 2.4 in 2017.

Pros

The numbers show us Degrom has been a bit better than his ERA marker, but that a change in repertoire could explain some of the gopher balls he has been serving up.

Still, it’s important to point out what makes this pitcher so appealing. Since breaking through in 2015, Syndergaard has posited a 2.85 FIP in 645 innings—good enough for 7th among all active pitchers throughout that span. WAR likes him as the 12th-most valuable pitchers since 2015, ahead of names like Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin, and Madison Bumgarner. He’s never thrown 200 innings in a season, but it’s understandable that the New York org gas been cautious with him, given his youth and upside. The lack of innings on his arm, along with the two arbitration seasons left on his clock, could both be seen as major plusses.

Conclusion

While the bated-breath reverence with which the New York media treats him may not be justified, a deeper look at the numbers show that it would be very difficult to define Syndergaard as anything less than a top-20 pitcher. He’s young, he’s controllable, and, despite some outlier struggles this season, has generally kicked ass for five years.

I don’t know if that means we should trade players “X, Y, or Z” for the hurler, but one thing is for certain—who ever does get Syndergaard will be acquiring one heck of an asset.