2019 was the worst season of Noah Syndergaard's career -- the only one of his five big league seasons where his ERA was higher than 3.24. His issues were sometimes mental, sometimes mechanical, sometimes related to bad luck. So how will he turn the page?
"I don't think it's mental," Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said Wednesday at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. "I think it's just a matter of -- a lot of players will struggle with mechanics and repeatability at different points in time over the course of the year. I think Noah has had such consistent performance -- he had injuries in '17 and '18 -- but his performance was exceptionally level."
While Syndergaard's 4.28 ERA in 2019 was ghastly compared to what he did over his first four seasons, his FIP was 3.60 -- an indication that some of what went wrong was due to bad luck.
But beyond the bad luck was poor execution at times, a big struggle when it came to keeping the baseball in the park (he allowed a career-high 24 homers) and the aforementioned mental and mechanical struggles.
Part of the reason for Syndergaard's struggles also stemmed from the inability to be able to harness his slider for most of the season, saying early in the season that it felt like an "ice cube" and eventually changing his grip.
Like Edwin Diaz, if the juiced ball of 2019 is fixed for 2020 -- with the seams and slickness back to normal -- that should help Syndergaard. Whether the ball is fixed or not, confidence will be key for him. And Van Wagenen thinks the confidence will be there.
"I don't want to say it's come easy to him in the past," Van Wagenen said. "But this year was a year where he had to focus a little more on the intricacies of his delivery, and I think that he feels confident about his ability to get back on track and be able to utilize his athleticism and allow his stuff to dominate as it has in the past."
As far as the mental side is concerned, Van Wagenen said "every player is gonna feel emotions," and that it's not a detriment for Syndergaard.
"What I've always respected about Noah is that he will be transparent with his thoughts and his feelings, but it doesn't change what his work ethic is, what his attitude is, how he's preparing in-between starts or even the day of starts," Van Wagenen explained.
Looking to cut trade rumors off before they began, Van Wagenen said shortly after the season ended that he fully expected Syndergaard and Diaz to be on the Mets in 2020.
If Syndergaard is on the Mets to start the season as expected, he'll likely be back at the top of the rotation along with Jacob deGrom. And how he performs could be one of the key things that determines whether or not the Mets take the next step and reach the playoffs.