After arguably the best start of Noah Syndergaard's young career Tuesday night, Terry Collins spoke of how the rookie has shattered expectations.
"All the reports we all got [on] him were, 'good arm, command needs a little help, secondary pitches sometimes are ineffective . . .' This guy has not shown any of that," Collins said after Syndergaard pitched eight shutout innings in Tuesday's 4-0 win over San Diego. Syndergaard was perfect through six innings, struck out nine and allowed three hits and no walks.
The 22-year-old righty improved his season ERA to 2.70 and is averaging 9.5 strikeouts and 2.1 walks per nine innings. He has allowed 1.07 walks and hits per innings pitched.
Collins attributes Syndergaard's big-league success to his willingness to learn from teammates.
"He is an absolute sponge when it comes to learning what he's got to do to be successful," Collins said. "His first . . . two weeks up here, every night he paid attention. Every night he's asking questions. Every night, he's talking to guys on the bench about stuff. He's just absorbed it, and now he's taking it to the mound."
Said Syndergaard: "I've learned so much from [pitching coach Dan Warthen], [Matt] Harvey and [Jacob] deGrom, and even Bartolo [Colon], even with the language barrier. It's a lot of fun being able to watch him go out there and have as much fun as he does . . . I've learned so much and I've gained so much more confidence."
"I would label myself as more of a pitcher now, whereas I was still learning how not to be a thrower when I made my debut."
Syndergaard has used this combination of his stuff and his acquired knowledge to become one of the better swing-and-miss pitchers in the majors. He ranks 22nd (out of 129 pitchers who have thrown at least 70 innings) in swinging strikes per pitch, generating a whiff 11.2 percent of the time, according to the statistical website FanGraphs.com.
His fastball and off-speed pitches have both been effective, as Syndergaard's 97.6-mph average fastball velocity leads all big-league starting pitchers, according to Baseball Prospectus. Opponents are hitting .208 against the pitch, which he has thrown 40.9 percent of the time this season.
Hitters whiff on 44.8 percent of their swings against Syndergaard's curveball, which is the 10th-highest rate among starters who have thrown at least 100 curves, per Baseball Prospectus. He has thrown his curveball 23.2 percent of the time this season, and opponents are hitting .213 against it.
When opponents are not whiffing against Syndergaard's pitches, they are usually not hitting the ball very hard. According to the statistical website Baseball Savant, which uses publicly available batted ball data, Syndergaard's average ball in play has left the bat with an average velocity of 85.5 mph. That is the fifth-lowest exit velocity allowed in the majors (behind Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Dillon Gee and Jake Arrieta), among pitchers who have allowed at least 100 balls in play.