All offseason long, Noah Syndergaard and the Dodgers' brass insisted the right-hander could continue to compete in this league with lessened fastball velocity (after, it should be noted, Syndergaard boasted he thought he could get back to throwing 97+).
Most analysts figured that if anyone could mine more out of Syndergaard's advanced command/unimpressive new arsenal, it was the Dodgers and Mark Prior's pitching lab.
So far? The stuff -- or, more specifically, the Stuff+ -- doesn't match the narrative.
Through four starts, Syndergaard's value has been limited, but the most deficient element of his arsenal has been his disappearing fastball. Following his fourth start of the season against the Mets, Syndergaard's four-seamer was rated by FanGraphs' Stuff+ metric as the fourth least-effective fastball in baseball, ranking behind Rockies luminaries like Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber, as well as (in a small sliver of relief) Padres free agent addition Michael Wacha.
Dodgers' Noah Syndergaard among worst fastballs in MLB, per Stuff+
Worse yet, this has been a recurring issue since last summer. After being traded from the Angels to the Phillies, Sarris noted that Syndergaard mitigated his receding stuff by downplaying the fastball significantly. He found some success in Philadelphia -- hell, he started a World Series game! -- but not nearly enough to be considered a finished product when he arrived in Los Angeles this winter.
Syndergaard has completed three textbook-definition "quality starts" with the Dodgers, only allowing more than three earned runs/completing fewer than six innings against the Diamondbacks on April 8. He's done so by throwing the four-seamer 15.5% of the time, barely up from 14.9% combined across his stint with both the Angels and Phillies last summer.
The good news? To mitigate the damage being done to that heater, he's emphasized the brand-new cutter, which is now being thrown 23.4% of the time, mimicking his 38.0% fastball usage from his breakout 2015 campaign with the Mets.
Syndergaard has been good-not-great so far for the 2023 Dodgers, and while it's encouraging that the team has clearly radically altered his profile, it's depressing that they've been unable to resurrect his fastball (and, in fact, it remains squarely in the league's bottom quadrant). In order to succeed, the once-great flamethrower will need to continue to swallow his pride for the remainder of the season, rather than regaining it with gusto.