The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Noah Syndergaard to a one-year, $13 million contract during the offseason with an expectation of needing fix some of his issues and unlock upside.
However, Syndergaard has regressed during his time in L.A. The once-elite starter who put fear into hitters has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season, posting a 7.16 ERA across 55.1 innings.
Following his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, Syndergaard allowed six runs in just three innings, and he was placed on the 15-day injured list due to a blister on Thursday.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts believes the time away from pitching can serve as a mental reset for Syndergaard, via SportsNet LA:
“I think with Noah, the physical, the mental, the emotional part, as he’s talked about, has taken a toll on him. So the ability to get him away from this, he left to go back to Los Angeles to kind of get back to normalcy. I don’t know the timetable. I think for me, it’s just kind of a reset and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Syndergaard has admitted to the challenges of making changes between starts, so the time away will also allow him to work on anything he needs to and tweak whatever he can to become a more effective pitcher.
While the former All-Star is never going to regain his form as the power arm he once was, Roberts hopes Syndergaard can find some clarity on who he is as a pitcher during his time away:
“I think he was always searching. I don’t think he embraced whatever version was there, in the sense that at one point I think he was dead set on getting velocity and getting back to the person who can throw the ball 100 miles an hour. And then I think there was some resolve to commanding the baseball and increasing movement. And then he went back to wanting to get some more velocity. I think searching and not being comfortable with where he was at in a moment is certainly evident in performance. So hopefully this time away, there will be a little more clarity on who he is right now as a pitcher.”
So far this season, only Joey Wentz (7.49) and Ken Waldichuk (7.24) have posted worse ERAs than Syndergaard among pitchers with at least 50 innings. Last year Syndergaard pitched to a 3.94 ERA in 134.2 innings.
The Dodgers would be thrilled to get production near that level and hope he can figure out the issues that caused his regression:
“Hopefully it can be a tale of two stories, of two halves, when he does come back. The plan, it’s more of our body guys, strength and conditioning, trainers, pitching department, kind of all coming together and just getting a definitive plan. I don’t know what that looks like right now. I don’t know the timetable, but it’s going to be a few weeks. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to tap into.”
Syndergaard is due for some natural regression in his ERA as he has a FIP at 5.55, an xFIP of 4.61 and an expected ERA of 5.44, but those numbers still leave a lot to be desired.
The 30-year-old is giving up nearly two home runs per nine innings, which is more than double his mark last season. Additionally, Syndergaard’s left-on-base percentage of 60.7% is far below the expected mark of around 75%.
Most of that is due to Syndergaard’s poor performance, but he has also been a bit unlucky, which could provide some slight hope moving forward.
Noah Syndergaard joined unwelcomed Dodgers history
Syndergaard’s 7.16 ERA is the third-highest mark by a Dodgers pitcher through their first 12 starts of a season. Only Hideo Nomo (7.26 in 2004) and Carlos Pérez (7.25 in 1999) had higher ERAs than Syndergaard.
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