I see a lot of pitches writing for Pitcher List. For every pitch that gets turned into a GIF, there are dozens more that just didn’t make the cut. Through this constant exposure I slowly develop crushes that leave me fanning myself like I’m attending church in the south. Did you see how much fade that Changeup had? Is that a Curveball at 89 MPH?! These affinities rarely stick after subsequent starts, but there was one who I found myself dying to inspect on each visit to the mound despite being seemingly overshadowed by the deGroms and Kershaws of the world:
Noah Syndergaard. (I realize I gave that away in the title of this article, but let’s act like you didn’t see it coming.)
Most pitchers that we featured had one instance of their best pitch that makes you giddy like Christmas day, such as Chaz Roe’s Slider or Steven Wright’s Knuckleball, but with Syndergaard, it seemed as though every start produced the same jaw-dropping ability that makes me question the true nature of his Norse God comparisons. While his secondary pitches are above-average in their own right, his Four-Seamer and – more importantly – Sinker were radiant.
To set the mood, let’s equivocate the Barry White and candles with some eye candy. First is a 99 MPH Four-Seamer that hits the spot so well you can see a puff of smoke from Travis d’Arnuad’s glove:
And allow me to pair that with an elegant Sinker that does…well, this:
In case you missed it – and let’s be honest, you watched it at least five times like I did – that was a 98 MPH Sinker off the outside corner with sweet sweet movement. How much movement exactly? Thor averaged around 7 inches of horizontal ride on his Sinker, about 4.5 inches more than his Four-Seamer.
In case you’ve forgotten, let’s compare the two pitches once more. First we have a perfectly placed Four-Seamer to a frustrated Anthony Rendon (and yes, I mean perfectly placed):
Followed by this triple-digit Sinker that debilitated Freddie Freeman in late September:
Both pitches are mesmerizing in their own right, but I have a feeling a thought has crept into your mind. If Syndergaard can throw a Sinker with identical velocity but much better horizontal movement, why wouldn’t he throw that all the time? That’s a great question – so good, in fact, that it seems Noah had the same thought.
By the time the post-season arrived, Syndergaard was throwing his Sinker 33.2% of the time, while dropping his Four-Seamer from a 39.59% usage in May all the way down to 23.5% in his final month. His stat lines improved as a result, boasting a 12.5 K/9, a 2.76 ERA, and an even 1.00 WHIP across five appearances in October. But exactly how effective was his Sinker through Thor’s entire rookie season? Let’s dive into some more numbers and I promise we’ll jump back to the fun stuff shortly.
Among pitchers with at least 150 innings this season (post-season not included), Syndergaard held the 7th highest Runs Above Average total for Sinkers at 3.6 while throwing it only 23.4% of the time. Outside of Jake Arrieta, who collected an absurd 21.5 RAA tally and is well known to be synonymous with unfathomable talent, every other pitcher had to throw their Sinker well above 50.0% of the time to score higher than Thor – in plenty more innings as well. Thor’s average Sinker velocity of 97.0 MPH also sat nearly two points higher than Brandon Morrow‘s 95.1 MPH mark in second place, blowing the competition out of the water.
So yeah, the pitch is really good. Like throw up your hands in a “today is not my day like I’m Anthony Rendon” kind of good. Now here’s one more fun fact. The pitch was at its best in October.
When the time came for Syndergaard to dominate in October, his Sinker displayed a whiff rate of 15.28%, crushing his previous month high of 10.89% in July. Additionally, batters held a poor .212 batting average against his Sinker, while limiting the extra bases hits with just a 0.273 Slugging Against. That’s just a .061 ISO. And here is how it looked:
Syndergaard was hurling his Sinker at 99 MPH and still getting his absurd movement as he struck out Miguel Montero in the NLCS. But it didn’t stop there. In the last days of the 2015 postseason, Thor was at his best. For those that skipped Game 3 of the World Series, here is what you missed:
Are you kidding?! I just don’t know how anyone is supposed to hit that. Really. And yes, I know Thor allowed three runs in the first two innings, whoop-de-doo. Don’t care.
So there it is, one of the more underrated pitches in the majors that we can all sit back and enjoy now that the 2015 season has come to close. It’s a shame the year ended for Syndergaard right when he seemed to be getting into his stride, but at least we have these GIFs to hint at how bright Thor’s future can be. Hint: It’s really bright.