Noah Syndergaard is essentially a pitcher plucked right out of a video game. He's 6-6 and has a 100 MPH fastball and a knee-buckling curveball. In total, he has five pitches that are planted in the back of hitters' minds, which makes him even more terrifying, as he can break any one of them out at any given time. While he still has room to grow as a pitcher (which is scary), if his first start is any indication, he's already improved upon his 2016 repertoire.
Last year, while he technically had five pitches, he rarely used his slider. He threw his fastball 932 times, his sinker 556 times, his curveball 554 times, and his changeup 276 times, but he went to his slider on just 48 occasions (according to FanGraphs).
While Syndergaard didn't turn to a slider often, part of that may have had something to do with the fact that he was learning how to throw "the vaunted Warthen Slider."
"The Mets' Dan Warthen may not have the name value of legendary pitching coaches that have come before him, but he does have his own pitch. If you want to see what it looks like, you just have to notice how the Mets, as a team, are outliers when it comes to slider velocity and movement.
The Mets are throwing a different kind of slider.
'It's a different spin, it's a different grip. The whole idea is not to use your wrist to try and spin the ball, you want your fingers to spin the ball. You're thinking fastball and just kind of cutting through the ball...
He [Jacob deGrom] was trying to make it [his slider] break, and we don't want to make it break, we want to think about getting our fingers to the front of the ball and spinning the baseball.'"
Matt Harvey and deGrom are the prime examples of the Warthen slider. In 2015, they averaged a velocity of 89.4 and 89.6 MPH, respectively, while featuring little horizontal movement and mostly vertical movement. Syndergaard on the other hand had an average slider velocity of 85 MPH and a great deal of horizontal movement with little vertical movement.
However in his first start in 2016, all of that changed. Syndergaard is now throwing his slider with incredible velocity and has cut down on its horizontal movement and sink.
|Noah Syndergaard||SL-X||SL-Z||SL Velo|
Over the course of a single offseason, and one spring training, Syndergaard has added roughly six MPH to his slider. While one start isn't much of a sample size, it's impossible to ignore the quantum leap on this pitch. In 2015, his hardest thrown slider was 92.99 MPH, but in his start against the Royals, Syndergaard threw one clocked at 95.25 MPH, of which Kendrys Morales was the unfortunate recipient.
Noah Syndergaard's 95 MPH Slider + The Nastiest Pitching GIFs From Yesterday's Games - https://t.co/1SjZpkWcey pic.twitter.com/VWwojpRmtf— Pitcher List (@ThePitcherList) April 6, 2016
Before making any definitive statements, we'll need to see more of Syndergaard's new slider over the course of several games, if not a couple months, but it's hard not to get excited about this development. Syndergaard came into the league and produced an above average K/9 (9.96) and a pristine BB/9 (1.86). If his new slider is here to stay, and can become a consistent out pitch for Syndergaard, he should have very little trouble dispatching hitters throughout the season.
Matt Goldman is a Contributing Editor at Beyond the Box Score & MLB Daily Dish. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.