Will Noah Syndergaard survive season with Dodgers as he battles mental hurdles?
Noah Syndergaard feels good physically now that he's far removed from Tommy John surgery. Per the Los Angeles Dodgers coaching staff, his mechanics "are still mostly sound." So what's wrong with the right-hander, who will look to snap out of this funk Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers?
Apparently it's all mental, which better explains his 1-3 record, 6.32 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.40 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in six starts (31.1 innings). Thor was supposed to be closer to unlocking his former flamethrowing self, not experiencing a regression on the velocity and strikeout fronts.
But his fastball has averaged just 92.4 MPH in 2023. His sinker's been at 92 MPH. That's created a problem with the disparity between his off-speed stuff -- his cutter (89.2 MPH) and changeup (86.7 MPH) aren't throwing opposing hitters off.
Syndergaard went from being extremely confident the Dodgers would be able to unlock his pre-2020 self to now experimenting with hypnosis to see if there's a way he can repair his psyche, as he described to Jack Harris of the LA Times (subscription required).
"Syndergaard believes the source of the issue lies in his subconscious, where the mental scars he endured during his rehabilitation from surgery haven’t fully healed."- Jack Harris, LA Times
Will Noah Syndergaard survive season with Dodgers as mental struggles take hold?
That's deep stuff. Unimaginable struggles for most. It's admirable Syndergaard has detected his subconscious as the potential problem and continues to do everything in his power to work on it.
But will he have enough time to do so? The Dodgers already pushed back his most recent start, skipping him for the weekend series against the Padres and pushing him to the lower-stakes Brewers series. The team claimed it was for a mechanical adjustment, but Harris kind of refuted that with his reporting on this story.
How long will the Dodgers allow Syndergaard to work through this, considering they paid him $13 million and were relying on him to have a semblance of a bounce-back and, at the very least, stabilize the back end of the rotation? We wondered if skipping his last start was the team's way of sending a warning, but we're just not sure.
You have to wonder, especially given the presence of top prospects Gavin Stone, who already made his MLB debut last week, and Bobby Miller, who returned to action recently after being injured to start the season. At this point, Syndergaard feels like the only rotation "problem," with all of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin performing well.
Then again, Syndergaard hasn't been terrible. He's issued just four walks all year and has three quality starts under his belt. His ERA and WHIP are largely inflated by two bad starts against the Diamondbacks and Pirates. The declining velocity, disappearance of strikeouts, and high contact rate (11.5 H/9) are the culprits.
The right-hander thinks he's identified the problem and is working tirelessly to solve it. And there's no doubt the Dodgers are supporting him in that process. But now that they've jumped out to a lead in the NL West despite dwindling expectations, the Dodgers may not be afforded the luxury to trot Syndergaard out there every fifth day if they don't start getting some answers soon.