Los Angeles Dodgers import Noah Syndergaard may never regain the 100 MPH velocity that made him one of MLB's most feared brushback artists.
Luckily, that's not why the Dodgers acquired him this offseason.
Sure, LA's braintrust believes there's more velocity to be mined from Syndergaard's arm as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery, a process he underwent just before "Opening Day" 2020 (that is to say, late March 2020, when baseball was a barren wasteland). But if that means a moderate fastball used more effectively rather than an upper-echelon blazer, Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior seems more than ready to work within Syndergaard's realistic capabilities.
According to Prior, Syndergaard's success will be more about location this year; the Dodgers believe he can live down in the strike zone, even if his baseline is "94 with movement" rather than "100 and terrifying."
"Velocity is important, velocity play. But I think his stuff and his movement and his ability to be down in the strike zone and do different things, I think he pitches extremely well with just that too."- Dodgers' Mark Prior to LA Times
Dodgers view Noah Syndergaard as "94 MPH with movement," not 100 MPH hurler
Syndergaard did reach 94 in his first live session of the spring, in line with his 94.1 MPH average four-seamer from 2022.
Though the pitcher himself has been bullish on his potential for reaching his old heights, especially in his introductory press conference in Los Angeles, the Dodgers like his profile at a lesser velocity, too. They're surely enthused by his ability to limit hard contact and walks, even while getting his sea legs and growing accustomed to his new arsenal.
Last season, split between the Angels and Phillies, Syndergaard fell in the 86th percentile for walk percentage, 80th percentile for average exit velocity against, and 79th percentile in hard-hit percentage against.
While he has no interest in surrendering and declaring that he's giving up on cracking the fastball century mark, Thor should rest comfortably knowing the Dodgers have a plan whether or not his trademark heater ever returns.
And, hey -- if the Dodgers do manage to bring back 2015 Syndergaard, then the possibilities of this coaching staff's magic are truly endless.