For the third straight outing and sixth time overall in 2023, Dodgers right-hander Noah Syndergaard gave up three or more runs in a start on May 31. Syndergaard gave up five runs to the Nationals that day and saw his ERA rise to 6.54 after that outing. It was another rough outing for Syndergaard, and one now has to question how longer “Thor” will remain in the Dodgers rotation.
A Look at Syndergaard
Just from the beginning of Noah Syndergaard‘s outing, one could see a bit of a problem. The 30-year-old fell behind in the first five at-bats of the game, and then again in the second inning when he served up a solo shot to catcher and former Dodger Keibert Ruiz. Shortstop CJ Abrams then caught a sinker middle-away that was golfed over the fence at Dodger Stadium.
Inability to execute with his sinker and changeup — the latter of which has been a great weapon throughout his career but far too ineffective in this outing — proved to be the downfall for Syndergaard, who gave up five runs and seven hits across five innings against the Nationals. On the season, Syndergaard owns a 6.54 ERA.
Needless to say, this is far from the results that the Dodgers expected of the former All-Star when Los Angeles signed him to a one-year deal this past winter.
A Look at Syndergaard’s Future
When Noah Syndergaard was at this prime, the right-hander could beat hitters in a number of different ways. The ex-Met could inundate hitters with an electric two-seamer that could run on opposing hitters or blow them away with a triple-digit four-seam baseball. Syndergaard could also play his changeup and slider off those pitches, both of which were pivotal weapons that kept the opposition on its feet and off on timing.
This is a different version of Syndergaard. Syndergaard doesn’t have the same type of velocity that can just blow by hitters, nor does he have the same bit on that changeup. His changeup only differs in velocity with the heat by about 2-5 MPH, nowhere near the sweet spot of around 8-10 MPH difference between his four-seam/sinker and changeup that he held in 2015 and 2016.
A pitcher in this day of age can operate as a starter with lesser velocity, but it requires good command, proper pitch sequencing, and three offerings with movement and speed differential. Right now, Syndergaard’s curveball hasn’t been bad. However, his command of his sinker and changeup are not good — and his BB% rate is not exactly a true reflection of where he’s at right now.
If the Dodgers had a healthy rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Ryan Pepiot, and Dustin May, it would be much easier to either move Syndergaard into a relief role or move on from the righty. However, the latter three are all on the IL and highly-rated pitching prospect Gavin Stone has been far from sharp this season.
Still, the Dodgers will need to make a decision soon on Syndergaard’s future. After two months and 38 runs over his first 52.1 innings in Los Angeles, the Dodgers can’t afford to let him continue the ways things have gone for him thus far.
Syndergaard did have success — albeit in a limited sample size — as a reliever when he came back from Tommy John surgery in 2021. His stuff may play up better in a relief role, and he would fill a void in the Dodgers bullpen should he find success in that role. Yency Almonte and Phil Bickford have not been sharp this season, nor has LHP Alex Vesia. If Syndergaard wants to get back on track, a move to the pen may be in the cards.