Noah Syndergaard believes he can find his 100 mph thunder again with Dodgers

Noah Syndergaard likened the feeling to “trying to change the tires on a car while it’s still moving.”

Not that his 2022 season was bad by most standards β€” he was 10-10 with a 3.94 ERA in a 2.3 fWAR season split between the Angels and Phillies β€” but it felt like he was fighting against himself. The man nicknamed “Thor” lacked his usual electrifying stuff, watching his velocity and strikeout rate dip and confidence in his delivery fluctuate in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

Now with the Dodgers, and with the time needed to fix the issues, he believes he can regain his thunder.

“What I was doing last year was not the best version of me,” Syndergaard said. “I see no excuse why I can’t get back to 100mph and even further.”

Syndergaard has wasted little time working on solutions.

As the offseason began, he began pitching at Tread Athletics in North Carolina and going through motion capture at Driveline Baseball in Arizona to come up with a plan for how he would attack the offseason. His goal is to “hit the ground running” in spring training, which will also take place in Arizona for Syndergaard, who signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Dodgers last week.

“I have the utmost confidence in the staff and the organization to help me get back to being the old me,” said Syndergaard, who is spending the holidays in Dallas before traveling back to Arizona on Dec. 27 to start immediately at work for the Dodgers. ‘spring installation.

He’s still trying to process exactly how and why things “went wrong.”

Before his UCL repair in March 2020, Syndergaard’s velocity hadn’t dropped much. Despite a long injury history, and even though he wasn’t pumping out triple-digit heat as often as he did in his 2016 All-Star season, he was still averaging low-90s velocity through 2019.

He appeared on his way back to this form. Everything in his Tommy John recovery process seemed to be going well for the first 14 months. Syndergaard recalled throwing 97 and 98 mph in his bullpen sessions. He was about to return when a setback occurred in May 2021.

Syndergaard was pulled from his second rehab start at Low-A St. Lucie. An MRI revealed inflammation in his elbow, which kept him from throwing for six weeks. He wouldn’t return to a professional mound for another three months. His eventual debut with the Mets in 2021 came on September 28, nearly two years to the day of his last major league appearance. “Thor” lacked its usual voltage.

In two starts to end the 2021 season, Syndergaard averaged 94.2 mph with his four-seamer, a pitch that sat at 97.8 mph before the surgery. He said he’s not sure if his body went into “fight or flight” mode to protect himself or if it may have been overloaded.

“I started going down a motion and throwing the mechanics like a rabbit hole and getting away from what made me great,” Syndergaard said. “When I had surgery, everyone always told me I was too big or too bulky or too strong, so instead of continuing to do what made me really good and say, ‘Hey, it’s Tommy John surgery, A lot of pitchers, a lot of baseball players go through this,” I completely overhauled my training program and my emphasis in the weight room. It was a lot of mobility, athleticism, and a little bit of strength and explosiveness. “.

He couldn’t regain his typical velocity in 2022, so he made use of what he had, instead offering his plumb, slider and changeup. The slider had long been his primary pitch, and he used it a career-high 22.4% last season. Opponents hit .316 against his four-seam fastball, which he threw a career-low 14.9 percent of the time. The hardest pitch he threw was 96.4 mph.

But he does not foresee more of the same in 2023.

β€œThe pitches I threw last year, I just want to throw them,” Syndergaard said. “I intend to be a different pitcher this coming year, so I haven’t really paid attention to maintaining those pitching forms.”

While he didn’t resemble his All-Star form, he did enough last season to draw the interest of free agent suitors. He chose the Dodgers in part because of their ability to help pitchers find their peak form.

Last year, it was in Los Angeles that 32-year-old Tyler Anderson made his first All-Star team, where Andrew Heaney posted career bests in ERA (3.10) and slugging percentage points (35.5%) and where reliever Chris Martin posted a 1.46. ERA and 0.53 WHIP in 26 appearances. All three pitchers parlayed their success into multi-year deals elsewhere this offseason.

“I think when you think about the Los Angeles Dodgers, they have this aura around them where the expectations are very high, and you’re expected to go out there and perform at your highest level,” Syndergaard said. “What they did with Heaney last year and Tyler Anderson, I definitely want to be in that category.”

Syndergaard was also drawn to the energy of the fans in Los Angeles and their success at Dodger Stadium, where his stuff tends to play. He allowed one run in 4.2 innings in his only start at the venue last season. Two of his eight fastest pitches all year came during that outing. In four career appearances at Dodger Stadium, he has held opponents to a .189/.255/.367 slash line.

“I feel like my performance is always high when I play there,” he said. “Even this year, when I had a down year by my expectations and my standards, I still feel like the one start I had at Dodger Stadium was still one of the best things I’ve ever had.”

Expect more of that with the Dodgers in 2022.

“I feel like everything they touch,” Syndergaard said, “turns to gold.”

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Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. He previously served as editor of the Dodgers’ digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @Rowan Kavner.

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