Noah Syndergaard’s Historic Rookie Season
How good has he really been?
On Sunday night, Noah Syndergaard had another fantastic start, pitching eight innings of two run ball in a very important game against the Nationals. He struck out nine batters, while allowing zero walks. The only two runs that he allowed came off of two solo shots, and he held the Nats’ lineup to only seven hits in total.
Syndergaard has surpassed already lofty expectations placed upon him as a prospect in his first 15 starts in the big leagues, with a 2.66 ERA through his first 15 starts. Here, we will dig further into his season stats so far, and discover exactly what has led to his success so far. We will also compare his rookie season so far to the seasons of all other rookie pitchers in the last 100 years to see exactly how he stacks up.
Throughout his first 94.2 innings at the major league level, Noah Syndergaard has shown a terrific ability to both strike batters out and prevent walks. His 26.3 K% and 5.3% BB% are both very impressive. Out of all major league pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched this season, Syndergaard ranks 10th in K% (right above teammate Jacob deGrom, who’s only a tenth of a percent lower) and 26th in BB% (tied with Pirates’ ace Gerrit Cole). His K%-BB% of 21% shows how great his combination of strikeouts and control has been. Syndergaard ranks 9th out of all big league pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched in K%-BB%.
Noah Syndergaard also possesses a 2.66 ERA, and his ERA estimators are roughly the same, with a 2.77 FIP and a 2.92 xFIP. His ERA ranks 14th in the big leagues for pitchers with at least 90 IP, while he’s 12th in the league in both FIP and xFIP.
Syndergaard’s success has much to do with his strong fastball. According to Fangraphs’ Baseball Info Solutions, his average fastball velocity of 96.9 mph is the fastest in the big leagues (once again, for pitchers with at least 90IP). PITCHf/x lists his average velocity only slightly lower, at 96.1 mph, which ranks him second in the big leagues based on their calculations. Syndergaard throws his fastball 64.1% of the time, the 21st most in the big leagues for pitchers with at least 90 IP.
Opposing batters also have the 15th lowest Contact % (total % of contact made when swinging at all pitches) against Syndergaard at 75.9%, and the 18th highest SwStr% (% of strikes that were swung at and missed) at 11.4%. Clearly, based on all the evidence presented above, Syndergaard has used his power arsenal to generate tons of swings and misses, while still only walking 5.3% of batters. The combination of the two is definitely one of, if not the best formula for success for a pitcher.
Based on all of the stats presented above, Syndergaard has been one of the best pitchers in the league this year; a tremendous feat for a rookie. Now, let’s see how he stacks up against rookie pitchers throughout history in many of the statistics listed above. For all rookie starters with at least 90 IP from 1915 to 2015, Syndergaard ranks 28th with his 74 FIP-. His K% (26.3%) is 13th best, and his K%-BB% (21%) ranks him all the way up at number 7, although BB% was not calculated until more recently, eliminating some of the older rookie pitchers from consideration.
Syndergaard’s rookie season has been a thing of beauty so far, and if he keeps this kind of pace up, his 2015 season may go down as one of the better rookie starting pitching seasons in baseball history. He is already one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, ranking in the top 15 in ERA, FIP, and xFIP (for pitchers with at least 90IP). He is also in the top 10 in the MLB in K% and K%-BB%, showcasing his mix of strikeout ability and control.
Syndergaard also has the stuff to back up his stats, with both Fangraphs’ Baseball Info Solutions and PITCHf/x listing his average fastball velocity above 96 mph. He is also known for his strong curveball, which is the reason why he was nicknamed Thor, who is known for his hammer, as is Syndergaard with his power curve.
Noah Syndergaard’s combination of stuff, ability to get strikeouts, and lack of walks leads me to believe that, barring injury, he will continue his excellent rookie performance. His ERA estimators (FIP, xFIP) are roughly the same as his ERA, showing that he is not getting lucky by stranding an unsustainable amount of runners (his LOB% is 77.1%) or allowing a ridiculously low BABIP that is bound to go up (his BABIP against has been .287, which is only slightly lower than the typical league average of roughly .300).
Syndergaard’s stuff and results are for real, and as his historically good rookie season has shown so far, he is and should continue to be a dominant force on the mound.