2019 Goal #2: Numbers Game…200 + 250 = 20
Numbers are a part of the language of baseball. They are what bridge the gaps of time and space in the baseball universe.
Baseball fans’ love of numbers is why there is such disdain for performance enhancing drugs in baseball while fans of other major sports simply experience a fleeting disappointment (over missed time more than anything else) when a player in their respective sport tests positive for PEDs.
Numbers are thrown around at the negotiation table as well. Figuring out how much a player is worth, based on, you guessed it – their numbers.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. What would baseball be without numbers?
And what numbers, specifically, should Noah be striving for in 2019 to reach the next level in his major league pitching journey?
Let’s start with the foundation…
200-plus innings pitched
Syndergaard has never thrown as many as 185 innings in a season, let alone 200. Surpassing the 200 innings mark for the first time in his career would mean two things about Noah’s 2019 season; a) that he starts at least 30-35 games and b) that he works deep into those games, averaging at least 6-7 innings per start. Syndergaard has yet to start more than 30 games in a single season in his major league career and in order to surpass 200 innings he will have to do exactly that this year.
We should also account for – filthy stuff…
Noah has only struck out 189 batters in the last two seasons – combined – and has never even threatened to reach 250 strikeouts in a single season.
Being on the field is obviously the best way to achieve this feat, but if he actually reaches the aforementioned 200-inning plateau then 250 strikeouts actually seems like a reasonable target to aim at for a pitcher with the stuff that Thor possesses.
And yes, a strikeout is an out the same as a groundout or pop out. But there is something to be said about not giving a batter the chance of a ground ball sneaking through or a pop-up dropping in.
There is a certain victory that comes with a strikeout that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere. A victory that is not only strategic but visceral.
These visceral victories are the ones which will propel Syndergaard to greater and greater in-game heights.
If you add that progression up over an entire season then we’ll be talking about Noah’s historic 2019 and debating once again who the Mets ace really is.
And the end game is, of course, wins…
When all is said and done, helping the team win is what any player’s job ultimately is – above and beyond everything else.
But baseball is a game of individual successes contributing to the collective success of the team. This is, perhaps, exemplified best in statistical form by the starting pitching ”win”. It’s actually named win, as in what you’re trying to do on a team level every time you play.
But imagine (or think back, if you’re old enough) taking that team mentality of trying to win every time out and applying it to a pitcher’s pursuit of the individual win.
Although it may initially be looked upon otherwise, this should be seen as a team-oriented rather than a selfish individual pursuit, because a starting pitcher who is aiming at getting into the win column for that day will take as much upon himself; not leaving things up to the offense or the bullpen, as possible to get the win that day.
This mentality is healthy in that there is a feeling of ownership to the game that you start. A responsibility to your team to will yourself to the win; dragging the team along, if need be. Of course, no pitcher has ever been awarded an individual ”W” in a team loss, so it should literally be a win-win situation.
And while I understand that the win is no longer considered as strong a marker of pitching success as it used to be, and that rotation-mate, Jacob deGrom, is the poster child for this after winning the 2018 National League Cy Young Award with only 10 wins last season, if Syndergaard can take this bulldog pursuit of victories approach then getting to twenty wins seems a possibility, assuming he hits that ever-important 200-plus innings mark.