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Oct 19

NLCS Game 2, Syndergaard, & Murph!

What have we learned about Noah Syndergaard (1-0) after Sunday night’s NLCS Game 2? His changeup has really improved over the course of the year for one. At the beginning of the year, Syndergaard was all fastballs and balls that broke for dirt. In June, the pitch was considered in his repertoire in name only with using it about 3% of the time. If you received three percent on a savings account in this day and age you’d be ecstatic, but that’s not the kind of percentage that makes you believe a pitcher has any faith in one of his pitches. I’d be willing to bet you could talk a major league pitcher into trying out a knuckleball three percent of the time, but that wouldn’t turn David Price into R.A. Dickey. Three percent is typically when you throw in a few practice sliders to the pitcher.

As you can well imagine, since I’m spending a considerable amount of time harping on it, Syndergaard’s use of the changeup has increased over the course of the year. Sometimes he’d sit around 12%, jumping up to around 25% of the time in starts against Boston and Atlanta in late August, early September starts. Typically when he’d used the changeup as his primary secondary pitch, it was because he didn’t have a great feel for the curveball, but what was remarkable about last night is that his breaking ball was sharp as well. In the first inning Syndergaard struck out Kyle Schwarber on back-to-back changeups, and they were particularly nasty offerings. In the third, after showing Javier Baez three straight 96+ mph fastballs, Syndergaard struck him out with a pair of curves.

Heck, Syndergaard even tossed in a couple of sliders in the later innings. You know, something around 2-3%.

When Syndergaard did throw his fastball (and he did throw his fastball around 60% of the time) he didn’t bring that 100-mph heater that makes all us geeky fans overly excited. No. Syndergaard reached back a few times and hit 98, stayed around 96-97, but the way he mixed speeds and started batters out with changeups and curves that fastball moved with a bit more authority on occasion. Actually, the way Syndergaard worked the corners and the knees, he reminded me of the way Jacob deGrom sometimes gets when he’s locked in. On his second strikeout of Schwarber in the third, he painted the inside black at the knees like he was throwing darts.

We’ll call this a successful start.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Mets have two rookies making starts in this NLCS. That’s pretty remarkable. Lots of teams have rookie pitchers. Look at the Reds. They managed to spend the entirety of the second half of the season giving rookies an opportunity to start games, but that didn’t mean the Reds ended up in the postseason. Rookies take their lumps. Learning on the job is tough, and major league hitters aren’t looking to help these guys out much. The thing about Syndergaard, and to a lesser extent for Steven Matz because he made so few starts during the season due to injuries, is that he doesn’t seem like a rookie anymore.

Is it familiarity? The 150 innings he threw during the regular season? Whatever it is he’s pitched so well in the postseason that it’s been a non-factor so far.

***

Yesterday I was thinking about this series. I was on a hike with a couple of good friends (you should remember Chuck from his Sportsmaster post) and my wife, thinking about baseball as I tried to forget about tumbling down Maryland Heights. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked before. Not on purpose. My knees are currently not thanking me, but it was a great day for it, and it was also a great day to think about baseball. Anyway, I was thinking about what this Mets lineup will look like when David Wright really gets going. Was his back bothering him? All of the extra days off in these series was hopefully giving him enough rest, but was it simply some kind of funk at the plate. He’s looked solid in the field, even making a great play in the fifth inning of last night’s game.

As an aside, was anyone else terrified when Wright stole second in Game 1? It was a stolen base that kicked off the journey of spinal stenosis discovery, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch another Wright steal without holding my breath a little.

Wright may not have proven last night that his bat is now considered a lethal weapon, but he absolutely tattooed one to center over Dexter Fowler’s head for an RBI double, bringing in Curtis Granderson for the game’s first run. While I love the idea of a continued Daniel Murphy home run barrage, I can’t imagine Joe Maddon will continue to have his pitchers throw to him if he’s hitting homers in every game. We saw that in the third inning when Jake Arrieta (0-1) intentionally walked Murphy to get to Yoenis Cespedes.

What world is this when pitchers are trying to get to Cespedes?

Nothing about that third inning likely produces a run if not for Granderson. In the second inning, Granderson flashed a little leather by robbing Chris Coghlan of a home run:

Then in the third, Granderson worked Arrieta for a walk, stole second, forcing Maddon to walk Murphy to set up the double-play, and then Granderson stole third, scoring on Cespedes’ infield single to Baez at short. He also singled in the first to score on Wright’s double. Yesterday I discussed how Granderson has sort of been the quiet force in this lineup, but he wasn’t particularly quiet yesterday. He was all over the place, being a Cubs menace for nine great innings.

So, Daniel Murphy:

Let me get this right. In four straight games, Murphy has hit home runs against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and now Arrieta. If you’re looking for descriptions, let’s go with this: the greatest pitcher in the world; a former Cy Young winner with a 1.66 ERA on the season; a big ticket free agent signing and three-time All Star; and one of the frontrunners for the NL Cy who had the greatest second half of pitching in MLB history.

Okay, sure. Why the heck not?

Murphy just tied Mike Piazza for the most homers in Mets postseason history, and I think we’re now approaching Carlos Beltran in 2004 level of unconsciousness. Beltran belted eight in the greatest postseason prior to free agency, and Murphy is making a nice run at Beltran’s quantity of highlights. I don’t know if Murphy will bank the contract that Beltran did, but I’m at the point that I’d be willing to start a Kickstarter project to keep him in New York for another year or two. How do they not offer him arbitration?

Sign me up for another year of this.

 

Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup    15 14.9
##   Curveball    23 22.8
##    Fourseam    30 29.7
##      Sinker    31 30.7
##      Slider     2 1.98

Pitch Type by Inning

##           1 2 3 4 5 6
## Changeup  4 3 1 2 2 3
## Curveball 4 4 7 2 3 3
## Fourseam  7 5 7 2 3 6
## Sinker    5 2 5 6 4 9
## Slider    0 0 0 1 1 0

Pitches by Outcome:

##                           Changeup Curveball Fourseam Sinker Slider
## Ball                             7        11        4     12      0
## Ball In Dirt                     0         3        0      0      0
## Called Strike                    0         4        7      9      0
## Foul                             1         2        9      4      1
## Foul Tip                         0         0        0      1      0
## In play, no out                  0         0        2      0      0
## In play, out(s)                  2         0        3      3      0
## In play, run(s)                  0         0        0      1      0
## Swinging Strike                  5         2        5      1      1
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)        0         1        0      0      0

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##           Changeup Curveball Fourseam Sinker
## Double           0         0        0      1
## Flyout           1         0        1      1
## Groundout        0         0        2      2
## Pop Out          1         0        0      0
## Single           0         0        2      0
## Strikeout        2         2        3      2
## Walk             0         0        0      1

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   50.50         49.50     24.24     59.41

Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.

Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.

Pitch Types by Zone Location

##  Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##    Changeup       4          11     0.364      1.00
##   Curveball       5          18     0.222     0.200
##    Fourseam      24           6     0.333     0.708
##      Sinker      17          14    0.0714     0.412
##      Slider       1           1      1.00      1.00

Strikeouts by Description

##                 Changeup Curveball Fourseam Sinker
## Called Strike          0         0        1      1
## Foul Tip               0         0        0      1
## Swinging Strike        2         2        2      0

Standard Batting Lines Against Noah Syndergaard

##           Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG Pitches
##    Anthony  Rizzo  2  2 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      10
##    Chris  Coghlan  2  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       8
##    Dexter  Fowler  3  2 1  0  0  0 0  1   0  0 0.500 0.667 0.500      15
##     Jake  Arrieta  1  1 0  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       6
##      Javier  Baez  2  2 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       8
##      Kris  Bryant  3  3 2  1  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.667 0.667 1.000      15
##   Kyle  Schwarber  3  3 0  0  0  0 3  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      13
##   Miguel  Montero  2  2 0  0  0  0 2  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       9
##   Starlin  Castro  2  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      10
##  Tommy  La  Stella  1  1 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       7

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 87.5  89. 90.5   -10.35     6.259       -10.57         4.348
##   Curveball 78.0 80.6 83.0    9.059    -1.721        9.546        -3.733
##    Fourseam 96.2 97.5 99.2   -3.429     11.51       -3.461         9.849
##      Sinker 96.3 97.6 99.1   -7.965     9.799       -8.125         7.957
##      Slider 86.3 86.8 87.2    4.660    -2.110        4.787        -4.186

Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the corner of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs up and down.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois and account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.

Below are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-10-19_Noah Syndergaard_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-10-19_Noah Syndergaard_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-10-19_Noah Syndergaard_BoxPlot 2015-10-19_Noah Syndergaard_Batters 2015-10-19_Noah Syndergaard_Pitches 2015-10-19_Noah Syndergaard_Stance

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