Mets’ Noah Syndergaard trying to end base-stealing issue

Mets’ Noah Syndergaard trying to end base-stealing issue

PORT ST. LUCIE — For all his bravado, Noah Syndergaard is smart enough to realize the status quo isn’t good enough.

The Mets right-hander is determined this spring to finally curb base-stealers, who have taken more than a few liberties against him in recent years. It could be the lesson learned from a season in which he posted a career-worst 4.28 ERA and 42 of 45 (93 percent) of base-stealers were successful against him.

“I like to think I’m quite a bit further [along] probably than I have ever been,” Syndergaard said Tuesday. “I swallowed my pride in knowing that there’s something I really need to work on there and made a huge emphasis on doing so.”

Syndergaard, with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, allowed his first stolen base of the spring, a swipe of second by the Marlins’ Magneuris Sierra in the second inning of a 6-1 loss at Clover Park, a steal that was more on the catcher than the pitcher. But Mets officials are convinced Syndergaard is on the right track.

New pitching coach Jeremy Hefner indicated Syndergaard has steadily remained in range of 1.35-1.50 seconds to the plate with his delivery this spring. Last year, Syndergaard was normally in the 1.60 neighborhood. The 1.40 range is considered average for a pitcher.

“I think it’s the leg lift, trying to get him where he thinks about his mechanics and what he thinks he needs to do to be able to throw 98 or 100 [mph],” Hefner said. “I think he can do that from a quicker leg lift, so we tried that and that’s proven to be successful so far.”

Base-stealers have been successful 89 percent of the time against Syndergaard for his career. The pitcher admits opponents running against him has been an “Achilles’ heel” that needed to be addressed.

Noah Syndergaard
Noah SyndergaardAnthony J Causi

“It’s been a huge focus for me,” Syndergaard said. “Every time in between starts, every time I step on the mound, I’m working on just being quicker to home plate without really sacrificing stuff to the hitter.

“For me it’s finding a quick, powerful position once I lift my leg and to just kind of drive down the mound and be explosive when I need to be as opposed to having my shoulder fly open. Just be quick without sacrificing stuff to home plate.”

The Mets are focused on improving times to the plate for the entire pitching staff, but getting Syndergaard fixed would be a giant first step in containing opponents on the bases.

“Especially in our division, teams have guys that have the profile of stealing bases and we want to shut that down,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We started to implement that in games. We’re really active in throwing over and holding the ball and doing different things. I thought today Noah did a good job. Jake [deGrom] did the other day. He was holding the ball for a while and throwing over and you see Pete [Alonso], too, the way he is covering first base and bouncing off and on the bag.

“We’re really active about holding runners, so I think Noah, along with the rest of our pitching staff, is working really hard and even from his bullpen sessions to [simulated] games that he’s been at, we have put runners on base when he’s doing the sim games and I think he is transferring that to the games.”

Over three innings, Syndergaard allowed three runs, one of which was unearned, on two hits with five strikeouts. In his Grapefruit League debut last week against the Astros, he fired two scoreless innings.

“I took a lot of positives out of [Tuesday],” Syndergaard said. “Just weak contact, my times to home plate were good. Just felt more confident on the mound, so that’s all that matters.”

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