Noah Syndergaard is 6-6, throws a basically unhittable 95- mph slider and has delivered more 100-mph pitches than anyone else in baseball this season.
The young righthander is regarded by many as the best pitcher on the best pitching staff in baseball. Unless, of course, he is pitching with runners on base.
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The San Francisco Giants figured out how to exploit this Achilles’ heel Sunday in their 6-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field. San Francisco runners were successful on all three of their stolen-base attempts as Syndergaard suffered his first loss of the season.
“You’ve got to beat him somehow,” David Wright said, “and other teams have figured out that he doesn’t hold runners as well as he would like and as well as some other guys. I think that’s something he could get better at.”
It certainly is. Runners have been successful in 12 of their 13 steal attempts against him this season. Last year, they were 15-for-16.
The consensus on the Mets is that Syndergaard is taking too long to get the ball to the plate, but the consensus seems to end there. Everyone seems to have a different idea for what to do about it.
“You can’t be that slow to the plate, got to change the pace, give the runners something different to look at, and certainly we got to get better at it,” manager Terry Collins said. “But again, I don’t want to get too carried away and all of a sudden get him out of sync completely, completely dismantle his delivery out of the stretch, and now he loses command of his stuff, which you don’t want to have happen.’’
Collins did have one concrete suggestion.
“We just got to get him a little shorter slide step that he can mix in, give those runners a different look,” he said. “You can get him one anytime. The issue is he’s got to take it and apply it and use it.
“You saw [Giants starter] Madison Bumgarner today. Slide step, slide step and all of a sudden, big leg kick. You have to interrupt the timing of the baserunner. That’s the difference.”
The only problem with the slide step is that Syndergaard didn’t seem too happy with the suggestion when reporters brought it up after the game.
“Slide step? I just . . . Man, when I was in Kansas City, I didn’t have a slide step. I was just quicker toward home plate,” Syndergaard said, referring to a recent dominant performance against the Royals. “I don’t see any point of having a slide step.”
In some ways, complaining about how long it takes Syndergaard to get the ball to the plate seems like complaining about a freckle on a supermodel. Because Syndergaard has the ability to retire three straight at any moment, the fact that he lets a lot of guys steal second isn’t a huge deal.
Syndergaard, who said he has been working on some mechanical issues, added that he knows it’s something he has to get better at. He said he spoke with fellow pitcher Jacob deGrom about the situation Saturday because he noticed that he’s pretty good at holding runners on base without changing his mechanics.
“The one piece of advice he gave me was just to hold on to the ball a little longer,” Syndergaard said. “I know runners don’t like to get a lead and then stay out there more than four seconds. It kinda disrupts timing. So I was trying to work on that today.”
Wright believes the situation is something that will work itself out.
“He can’t get better at throwing harder or throwing better sliders,’’ he said. “But there’s always some things for everyone where there’s room for improvement. I think holding runners is one of them.”