There is little dispute that the New York Mets’ pitching staff is the crown jewel of the organization.
With a bevy of young, hard-throwing starters that provide an embarrassment of riches on the hill, the grouping of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and later on, Steven Matz, will carry the hopes of a city.
But one arm has quickly separated himself as the Mets’ ace; and it just so happens to be the youngest member of the team’s rotation who has an affinity for Norse mythology.
At 24 years old, Syndergaard– who is referred to by many as Thor– has been the most consistent and powerful presence among New York’s starters.
He’s also been the best since his debut in 2015:
Mets starters statistics from 2015-2016
Noah Syndergaard: 23-16, 2.89 ERA, 384 K’s
Jacob deGrom: 21-16, 2.76 ERA, 348 K’s
Matt Harvey: 14-18, 3.41 ERA, 264 K’s
Steven Matz: 13-8, 3.16 ERA, 163 K’s
Zack Wheeler: Did not pitch (Tommy John surgery)
Last season gave him an opportunity to carry a hobbled rotation that saw Harvey, deGrom and Matz all go down with injuries that cut their years short.
Syndergaard did battle elbow issues at times, but he helped will the Mets to the National League Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants. His 2.60 ERA ranked third in the majors while his 218 strikeouts were fourth most in baseball.
He further cemented his status in Citi Field lore and as the staff’s No. 1 man in an epic clash with San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner during the one-game Wild Card playoff.
Over seven innings, he allowed just two hits while striking out 10 Giants, but the Mets offense was just as befuddled by Bumgarner, possibly the greatest postseason pitcher in league history, in the loss.
Most of Syndergaard’s success has derived from a lightning-like fastball that averaged 98 miles per hour and regularly reached triple digits along with a slider that averaged a tick under 91.
Both have a ridiculous amount of movement given their speeds. His fastball is a two-seamer that can move away from right-handed hitters while approaching the plate.
The slider acts in a similar way with a slight drop as it crosses the plate. Despite it only being a few miles per hour slower, it can absolutely fool even the best hitters.
Last season, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., who was playing for the San Diego Padres at the time, told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he had “never seen anything like it,” and even compared the pitch to hall of famer Randy Johnson’s.
Syndergaard also possesses a curveball that he went to much less in 2016 compared to his rookie season. After throwing the off-speed pitch 22 percent of the time in 2015, Thor went to the curve just 8.5 percent last year according to FanGraphs.
If three solid pitches were not enough, he has added another lightning bolt in the form of a changeup, which he perfected during the offseason and spring training.
Debuting this winter, his newest work of art has baffled hitters to the verge of humiliation already.
It will hover around 10 miles per hour slower than his fastball, which still has plenty of pace for a changeup. However, this pitch will bear in on right-handed batters while approaching the plate at the same trajectory as his fastball and slider.
That kind of arsenal will make Syndergaard almost impossible to prepare for, as batters will have little idea how each pitch will break while it is approaching them.
On Opening Day Monday, the Atlanta Braves will be the first team that will try to crack the code and provide a blueprint on how hitters can attack him.
But with Thor poised to make a legitimate run at the NL Cy Young Award this season, it looks as though a perfect storm is brewing in Queens for the Mets’ ace