<
>

Mets' Noah Syndergaard frustrated with stolen bases adding up

NEW YORK -- The running game has become a big issue for the New York Mets' Noah Syndergaard.

The San Francisco Giants stole four bases in Sunday's 6-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field. The Giants were 3-for-3 with the 6-foot-8 Syndergaard trying to hold them on first, and two of those thefts -- both by Matt Duffy -- ultimately came around to score.

And this came on the heels of last Monday, when the Cincinnati Reds were 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts against Syndergaard.

"The last two starts, I haven't felt very comfortable on the mound in terms of mechanically, which is allowing baserunners to get better jumps off me," said Syndergaard, who allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched. "I'm slower towards home plate. It's just a slight mechanical issue that I'm still trying to work on."

This has never been Syndergaard's strength. In 24 starts during 2015, opposing runners were 15-for-16 on attempted steals with him on the mound, according to STATS research. This season, the pace has picked up with the baserunners going 12-for-13 in five outings. Syndergaard said it's "frustrating."

He sought out the advice of Jacob deGrom on Saturday because Syndergaard said deGrom does well at neutralizing the running game. Among the things they discussed was the idea of holding the ball longer in the stretch.

"I notice he's very good with runners on base, altering his mechanics and still being able to maintain that quickness," Syndergaard said. "Holding on to the ball a little longer? The runners don't like that -- getting a lead and staying out there for four seconds or so. It kind of disrupts their timing."

Mets manager Terry Collins pointed out that lefty Madison Bumgarner, the Giants starter, used more than one delivery to the plate out of the stretch. Collins said it's enough for opposing baserunners to know that a pitcher can change the look to put them on their heels.

"If you disrupt the timing of the baserunner, that's the difference," Collins said. "It's just something the baserunner has to know he has and will use, and that will slow him down a little bit."

Syndergaard said he is working daily with pitching coach Dan Warthen on getting faster to the plate and that "it all comes off my leg kick. I'm too slow with that and it's causing me to drag a little bit."

As recently as two weeks ago, Syndergaard said he was happy with the timing of his delivery to the plate, so he may not be that far off.

But there are two concerns Collins sees: one mental and one physical. He is worried that Syndergaard's concern with the running game could interfere with attacking the hitter at the plate. And he is even more concerned that any change made to Syndergaard's delivery from the stretch could throw off the rest of his motion.

"I don't want to get too carried away and all of a sudden get him out of sync completely, because we dismantle his deliver out of the stretch and now he loses command of his stuff," Collins said.

"That's always been the issue. Any time you have a guy pitching out of the stretch and take his leg kick away, you're looking at a dip in velocity. But the thing that concerns me more than anything is if we start to lose command, his release point, because we're trying to hurry up the arm."

Syndergaard believes restoring the quicker leg kick will improve things and that any talk of adding a "slide-step" delivery is unnecessary. "I've done it before," he said. "As long as I'm 1.3 [seconds to the plate] I don't see any purpose adding a slide-step."

Collins recalled an era when power pitchers like Syndergaard worried less about controlling the running game and thought Thor could take a lesson from that. After all, Syndergaard is striking out 12.25 per nine innings.

"Those power pitchers, they didn't care if guys stole bases," Collins said, "because they struck people out."