Noah Syndergaard in contrast the sensation to “trying to change the tires on a car while it’s still moving.”
It’s not that his 2022 season went poorly by most requirements — he was 10-10 with a 3.94 ERA in a 2.3 fWAR season cut up between the Angels and Phillies — however he felt like he was preventing himself. The person dubbed “Thor” lacked his standard electrifying stuff, watching his velocity and strikeout charge dip and the arrogance in his supply fluctuate in his first full season coming off Tommy John surgical procedure.
Now with the Dodgers, and with requisite time to repair the problems, he believes he can recapture his thunder.
“Whatever I was doing last year was not the best version of me,” Syndergaard mentioned. “I see no excuse as to why I can’t get back to 100 mph and even farther than that.”
Syndergaard has wasted little time engaged on options.
When the offseason started, he began throwing at Tread Athletics in North Carolina and going by means of movement seize at Driveline Baseball in Arizona to give you a blueprint for the best way he’d assault the offseason. His objective is to “hit the ground running” in Spring Coaching, which may also happen in Arizona for Syndergaard, who signed a one-year, $13 million contract with the Dodgers final week.
“I have the utmost confidence in the staff and the organization to help me get back to being the old me,” mentioned Syndergaard, who’s spending the vacations in Dallas earlier than touring again to Arizona on Dec. 27 to right away begin working on the Dodgers’ spring facility.
He’s nonetheless attempting to course of precisely how and why issues “went kind of haywire.”
Previous to his UCL restore in March 2020, Syndergaard’s velocity hadn’t dipped a lot. Regardless of a prolonged damage historical past, and whereas not pumping triple-digit warmth as usually as he did in his All-Star 2016 season, he was nonetheless averaging high-90s velocity by means of 2019.
He appeared on observe to return to that type. All the pieces in his Tommy John restoration course of appeared to be going easily for the primary 14 months. Syndergaard recalled throwing 97 and 98 mph in his bullpen classes. He was nearing a return when a setback occurred in Might 2021.
Syndergaard was pulled from his second rehab begin at Low-A St. Lucie. An MRI revealed irritation in his elbow, shutting him down from throwing for six weeks. He wouldn’t return to knowledgeable mound for an additional three months. His eventual 2021 Mets debut got here on Sept. 28, practically two years to the day of his final main league look. “Thor” lacked his standard voltage.
In two begins to finish the 2021 season, Syndergaard averaged 94.2 mph on his four-seamer — a pitch that sat at 97.8 mph previous to surgical procedure. He mentioned he’s undecided if his physique went into “fight or flight” mode to guard itself or if possibly he had overworked himself.
“I started going down a movement and pitching mechanics kind of rabbit hole and getting away from what made me great,” Syndergaard mentioned. “When I had surgery, everyone was always telling me that I was too big or too bulky or too strong, so instead of continuing to do what made me really good and just chalk it up to, ‘Hey, it’s Tommy John surgery, a lot of pitchers, a lot of baseball players, go through that,’ I completely did an overhaul of my training program and my emphasis in the weight room. It was a lot of mobility, athleticism, and kind of shifted away from the strength and explosiveness.”
He was unable to regain his typical velocity in 2022, so he made use of what he had, as an alternative that includes his sinker, slider and changeup. The slider had lengthy been his major strikeout pitch, and he used it a career-high 22.4% final season. Opponents hit .316 towards his four-seam fastball, which he threw a career-low 14.9% of the time. The toughest pitch he threw was 96.4 mph.
However he doesn’t anticipate extra of the identical in 2023.
“The pitches I threw last year, I just want to kind of throw those away,” Syndergaard mentioned. “I fully intend on being a different pitcher this next year, so I haven’t really paid attention to keeping those pitch shapes.”
Whereas he didn’t resemble his All-Star type, he did sufficient final season to seize the curiosity of free-agent suitors. He picked the Dodgers partially due to their potential to assist pitchers discover their peak type.
Final yr, it was in Los Angeles the place 32-year-old Tyler Anderson made his first All-Star group, the place Andrew Heaney posted profession bests in ERA (3.10) and strikeout charge (35.5%) and the place reliever Chris Martin registered a 1.46 ERA and 0.53 WHIP in 26 appearances. All three pitchers parlayed their success into multi-year offers elsewhere this offseason.
“I think when you think of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it has, like, this aura around it, where the expectations are super high, and you’re expected to go out there and perform to the highest level,” Syndergaard mentioned. “What they did with Heaney last year and Tyler Anderson, I definitely want to be in that category.”
Syndergaard was additionally enticed by the power of the followers in Los Angeles and his success at Dodger Stadium, the place his stuff tends to play up. He allowed one run in 4.2 innings in his lone begin on the venue final season. Two of his eight quickest pitches all yr occurred throughout that begin. In 4 profession appearances at Dodger Stadium, he has held opponents to a .189/.255/.367 slash line.
“I feel like my performance is always elevated when I play there,” he mentioned. “Even this year, when I had a down year based off my expectations and my standards, I still feel like the one start I had at Dodger Stadium was still some of the best stuff I’ve had.”
He expects extra of that with the Dodgers in 2022.
“I feel like everything they touch,” Syndergaard mentioned, “turns to gold.”
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Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Comply with him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.
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