Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Burden

Watching Friday's Mets game in Detroit was just one of those games that gives you no hope for the remainder of this season. I know that they were playing a red-hot Tigers team, but they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for them and generally that's been a winning proposition for them. But lately, the air has come out of Syndergaard a bit and yes, I think the issue is simply that he's starting to get gassed.

It is a haul for a pitcher to come out and go full throttle 32-34 times in a season and to this point Syndergaard has not done this. It's easy to forget because of how good he looks at times, that he's still only 23 and will be 24 at the end of August, and this is, in fact, his first full season in the Majors. But coming off of the way he finished 2015 and the way he pitched for the first two months this season and, well, you change expectations. At some point, he went from being "pretty good," to "Legendary" and it's not unfounded. But he still has to prove stamina. This takes time. And going out there with a heavy innings load and a bone spur is proving to be more problematic than we want to think it is. In April and May, Syndergaard was basically sucking the will from his opponents and blowing them out of the box with regularity with his demon array of pitches (and Mjölnir). But then he started having issues with the bone spur, and he had some dead arm, and these things happen. The result, then, is that while it's not affecting Syndergaard's stuff, what's happening is that he's got what we in Metland like to call Leiteritis. The inability to put a hitter away and thereby running up one's pitch count by allowing absurd amounts of foul balls (not to be confused with its cousin, John Maine-itis, which is Leiteritis combined with abject misery and self-loathing). This is now what's happened to Syndergaard, as his season has unraveled into Leiteritis and outings where he gets two strikes on a hitter and then allows 5 foul balls, and it's the 5th inning and his pitch count is around 90.

It's alarming in the sense that you know something's not right, but then again he's still throwing in the upper 90s and he looks fine mechanically. I'm sure it's related to the workload and the bone spur and these are correctable problems, so I can't get too worked up about the long term. But given what happened to him on Friday night and the fact that the Mets offense is too overmatched to dig themselves out of holes, well, you can draw the conclusion from there.

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