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2023 Dodgers in review: Noah Syndergaard

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers
We saw this look a lot last season.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Noah Syndergaard was bad in 2023 — and I saw how bad in two different cities!

He was really bad. Spectacularly bad.

The Noah Syndergaard Experiment, which really sounds like a pretentious progressive rock cover band that keeps playing King of the Crimson Court over and over, was doomed from the start and that fact was obvious in hindsight.

In many ways, it is impossible to overstate how bad Syndergaard was for the Dodgers in 2023. In retrospect, while writing this review, briefly, I feel bad for revisiting this subject, because Syndergaard owned up to his poor play, at one point accurately calling himself the “weakest link” of the Dodgers’ once-and-future beleaguered starting rotation.

He could have blamed others. He could have lashed out. He did not. He did not wither away from questioning at any opportunity, and frankly, that trait should be commended.

Then I remember Syndergaard was single-handedly responsible for both of the worst baseball experiences I had in the three years I have written in earnest at True Blue LA (one year as an amateur, two years as a paid writer) and the guilt for this essay vanishes like breath on a mirror.

Syndergaard’s pitching was so god-awful in 2023 that it is easy to forget the mild excitement that came when the Dodgers signed the tall right-hander last December on a one-year, $13 million contract. Unfortunately, Syndergaard suffered from what will now be called “Trayce Thompson disease”: he had one good day, which was his first day.

In his only good start with the Dodgers, he went six innings, gave up a single run, and struck out six. Thormania had begun ... and ended faster than the shelf life of a Dodger Dog left outside of the refrigerator.

The rest of the way with the Dodgers, Syndergaard started 11 times and allowed nearly as many runs (43) as innings pitched (49⅓).

The Dodgers went 4-7 in those starts by some minor miracle. The fewest runs allowed by Syndergaard in this stretch were technically zero as he was pulled after a single inning in Milwaukee after sustaining a cut on his right index finger. Otherwise, it was a lot of crooked numbers, a lot of innings from the bullpen, and a lot of games where the Dodgers just had to slug it out.

Opposing batters in this stretch had a slash line of .327/.366/.585 against Syndergaard, a reasonable facsimile of Freddie Freeman’s stat line during the regular season (.331/.410/.567).

But the worst stat of all for Syndergaard with the Dodgers was the 20 stolen bases allowed in 21 attempts. Runners have traditionally run wild against Syndergaard, but with the rule changes in 2023, the theft essentially became informal bullying. Walks and singles became doubles and his starts dragged on interminably.

One such afternoon was the first game I attended in Tampa. As soon as I saw the schedule, I girded myself for a long afternoon. It did not work — the game was effectively over in twenty minutes, which was a bit of a bummer considering I flew across the continent to see the Dodgers play. The last time I had this little fun at the ballpark, the original #SaveEli trip had ended and I was being screamed at by drunken Angel fans for half the night for the crime of watching the Dodger stink in four different cities.

Frankly, it was not hard to deduce why Syndergaard was struggling so much. He used to be a hard thrower, but that ability was taken away by injury. Syndergaard tried to pivot into being a sinkerballer. But a sinkerballer who leaves the ball up is not pitching; he is having unscheduled live batting practice.

The below home run by Elly De La Cruz is a prime example of this argument and effectively ended Syndergaard’s tenure with the Dodgers. De La Cruz’s first career home run nearly left the confines of Great American Ballpark and was an exclamation point as to how the Experiment had come to an end.

Syndergaard had blister issues and issues with a broken fingernail. He went on the injured list twice with the Dodgers in 2023 in May and June. In early July, I floated the idea of trading Noah Syndergaard to Pittsburgh to try to get Rich Hill back.

At the trade deadline, a miracle occurred: Syndergaard was traded to the Cleveland Guardians for Amed Rosario. And there was much rejoicing in Los Angeles, but I was not happy.

I knew that my travels would take me to Cleveland and Boston in 2023 and with my luck, my path would intersect with Syndergaard’s again. And with my luck, Syndergaard would throw a three-hit, complete game shutout, because baseball. On August 22, I had my reunion with Syndergaard. It did not help that I was basically blinded in my seat by the full power of the sun for half of the game.

Noah Syndergaard having a quality start against the Dodgers. Progressive Field. August 22, 2023.
Noah Syndergaard having a quality start against the Dodgers. Progressive Field. August 22, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

The Dodgers offense kept to form against Syndergaard putting three quick runs on the board against the Cleveland Guardians, but then did nothing for the rest of the game. Technically and shockingly, Syndergaard had a quality start against the Dodgers as the Guardians scored eight unanswered runs to beat the Dodgers. It was his only quality start with Cleveland.

I handled the loss with the customary dignity for which I have become known.

Syndergaard had one more bad start on the year before being designated for assignment by Cleveland on August 27 and released three days later. Unsurprisingly to anyone, Syndergaard did ultimately find his release point — just not in the way he would have probably wanted.

2023 particulars

Age: 30

Stats: 7.16 ERA, 5.52 FIP, 55⅓ IP, 39 K, 9 BB, 12 HR, 20 SB, 0.1 fWAR, -1.0 bWAR w/Dodgers

Salary: $13 million

Game of the year

It would be perverse to say August 22 against the Dodgers, so we will instead go with Syndergaard’s lone bright spot on the season, his aforementioned season debut on April 2 against the current National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks.

The right-hander allowed one run in six innings, with no walks and six strikeouts.

Roster status

Syndergaard is a free agent.