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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Noah's a Hit

I first laid eyes on Noah Syndergaard in July 2013, when he pitched for the USA in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field. (His opponent: Rafael Montero.) The Futures Game was lightly attended, and I wound up sitting with my pal Will in the luxe seats, the ones with padding where people will bring you Shake Shack. Unfortunately, it was also approximately 9 billion degrees; I remember little about the day except a hazy dread that I was liquefying and would vanish into a puddle beneath my fancy seat.

After that Syndergaard was in Las Vegas, where the organizational guys said he had things to learn while the advanced stats suggested what he should learn was not to pay attention to PCL numbers. He didn’t get a September callup, which was one of those Big Deal in New York stories. Then he showed he was more than ready this year. He came up and sure doesn’t look like he’s leaving any time soon.

Syndergaard annihilated the Phillies today, sending high-90s heat in on their hands and away across the outer edges of the plate and mixing in a devious, borderline cruel curve and a serviceable change-up. He got all the help he’d need from Lucas Duda, who hit two more laser-beam home runs to continue his recent barrage; the rejuvenated Michael Cuddyer, who cracked a long drive into the second deck; and himself.

Duda’s first home run was a bolt off Phillie ham-n-egger Sean O’Sullivan that left the ballpark in approximately a tenth of a second; his second, also off the luckless O’Sullivan, nearly nailed a hapless Philadelphia reliever minding his own business in the bullpen. Yet it was Syndergaard who was the Mets’ most impressive slugger.

Syndergaard went 3-for-3, but nobody was talking about his two singles. What grabbed the attention, and justifiably so, was his fourth-inning blast off O’Sullivan. It was a pretty good pitch, actually — a fastball that tailed away over the outside of the plate. It didn’t matter — Syndergaard extended his long arms and drove it to the opposite field, just left of the apple 430 feet away. It was the kind of home run you take notice of no matter who hits it.

Syndergaard is just 22 and looks like he’s about 15, with a certain deer-in-the-headlights expression. It’s easy to forget that he’s 6′ 7″ and 245 pounds. Well, easy to forget from the couch: I guarantee opposing hitters are well aware, particularly since he can throw 100 miles an hour.

His hitting prowess was buzzworthy before he reached New York too — he hit .270 in the minors, and his final Las Vegas start (this year? ever?) was a 3-for-4 day with another mammoth homer.

Which got me thinking about the history of Mets’ pitchers as hitters.

The annals aren’t particularly glittering. The first home run hit by a Mets pitcher was a grand slam off the bat of Carlton Willey on July 15, 1963, helping beat Ken Johnson and the Colt .45’s. Lest fans get any ideas, Willey hit .111 that year. Jay Hook was a decent hitter among early Met hurlers, but couldn’t pitch. Galen Cisco, Al Jackson and Bob Shaw acquitted themselves reasonably well with the bat in the team’s early days, as did Don Cardwell.

Tom Seaver gets high marks as a hitter, but mostly that’s because he had a bit of power — Seaver hit .154 for his career but did have 12 home runs, and was good for nine or 10 RBIs a year. Dwight Gooden was a better hitter — he hit .197 as a Met, with eight homers, which makes you imagine what he could have done if allowed to hit from his natural side.

From the later years, Craig Swan could hit a bit, as could Hank Webb and Ray Sadecki. Walt Terrell broke in with a bang, hitting .182 with three homers in ’83, but then hit .080 the next year. Jason Isringhausen hit .255 with two homers in ’93. Rick Aguilera could hit, as could Sid Fernandez. Rick Reed wasn’t inept with the bat; neither was R.A. Dickey or T@m Gl@v!ne.

Among current Met hurlers, Matt Harvey‘s still living off memories of his big-league debut and his reputation as a mean hombre — he’s a career .129 hitter. Jacob deGrom‘s better, at .224 for his career. Jon Niese‘s career average is an uninspiring .155, but he’s hit over .200 three of the last four seasons.

The best years by a Met pitcher? George Stone hit .271 in 48 at-bats in ’72, driving in five. (Stone was a career .212 hitter.) But Mike Hampton was better: He didn’t hit a home run in 2000, but he lived up to his billing as a hitter, with 10 RBIs and a .274 average. Hampton’s career mark as a hitter was .246 with 16 homers, including seven for Colorado and its fine schools in 2001.

Can Syndergaard be better than that? The specter of Walt Terrell suggests not getting too excited. But it’s hard not to dream big when you see a 22-year-old kid drive a ball 430 feet to the opposite field. That stuff’s fun. But then right now everything Noah Syndergaard does is fun.

29 comments to Noah’s a Hit

  • Z

    Two of Terrell’s homers were in one game if I recall correctly.

  • Dave

    McDowell and Orosco could hit too, and benefited from playing in an era in which relief pitchers might bat even if the game went less than 21 innings. Tug could swing the bat too (and hit right handed if I’m not mistaken) and I seem to recall Skip Lockwood not being an automatic out.

    And I believe David Cone was the 1st Met pitcher who got a pinch hit. With this bench as currently constructed, I think Thor and Young Jacob should be TC’s first options for lefty bats off the bench.

    • Daniel Hall

      The front office has already put all their money on Cecilliani (evil name to type!) and donated Nieuwenhuis to the Angels, so – yeah baby! – things are progressing. In whichever direction.

  • Daniel Hall

    “Syndergaard is just 22 and looks like he’s about 15, with a certain deer-in-the-headlights expression.” – priceless! But more than Syndergaard’s slightly detached look I liked Matt Harvey’s expression when Syndergaard bombed the poor O’Sullivan. “What? Nobody told me that was part of the job!”

    I actually really felt sorry for O’Sullivan, who was certainly told that the Mets couldn’t hit a lick, and when he found out that this was not bloody quite true, they left him out there to die.

    Nice bits were the unsuspecting Phillies reliever and Gary and Ron constantly mocking Keith, who had to be cut open.

    Can we please dis-invite the no-matter-how-moribund Marlins for the weekend and play three more against Philly? You know – Ernie Banks was right. Let’s play two on Sunday. We need four wins.

  • Eric McErlain

    You are correct, Z. Terrell’s two blasts were in a game against the Cubs at Wrigley in ’83. Still remember the post game interview.

    • Dennis

      I remember that interview as well. If I recall correctly, he said that after the first two homers, he was definitely trying for the 3rd his next time up.

  • otb

    I always enjoy discussions of pitchers’ batting prowess. Of course, if the other league had had the Designated Hitter rule back in 1920 or so, a certain Red Sox pitcher who was quite capable with the bat would never have gotten the opportunity to hit any of his 714 home runs. Also, the history of the other New York baseball franchise might be quite different.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Bar me from this blog maybe, but watching the barrage yesterday (and the general feeling of confidence the Mets seem to have at Home this season), I had the errant thought that somehow the absence of David Wright has actually HELPED this team, at least at Citi Field. None of that “watching their Franchise Player getting spooked daily by the dimensions (or whatever the problem really was)” for these Mets. That was in the past, this is OUR Home now.

    There I said it.

  • Michael G.

    Thor’s batting prowess (Thor’s a lot easier to spell than Syndergaard) underscores how inane the DH is. Pitchers are lousy hitters — unless they aren’t. This adds a layer of intrigue that the AL lacks, not to mention all the strategic elements the DH eliminates etc etc. Get rid of the DH, and expand the rosters to satisfy the union, and be done with it.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      I’m with you. Michael. One of the reasons that pitchers are lousy hitters, is that they never get a chance to bat in the low minors, and pitchers on AL farm teams never get to bat in the minors. It’s my understanding that pitchers only bat in AA and AAA when the game involves two NL affiliates.

      If Noah continues to hit, it would be interesting to see if Terry eschews the DH when he pitches in an AL park. At this point, I don’t see a better DH option on our roster.

  • open the gates

    Sorry, Ken K. I will take the Captain, flaws and all, over Dan Muni or Soupy Campbell or a misplaced Daniel Murphy or any other options Terry wants to throw at us. He’s still The Captain, and was actually in a better groove than I’ve seen for years when he went down. I’m only concerned that the Mets mismanagement of his previous health issues (the guy played a season with a freakin’ broken back, for crying out loud! ) hasn’t destroyed his career for good.

    • Dave

      I’ll straddle the fence and say Ken and Gates are both right. There have certainly been examples in all sports of teammates turning it up several notches when the guy they may be overly reliant on is missing or gone. Maybe we’re seeing Duda and Flores stepping up because they’re seeing their opportunity now to be The Guy. But on the other hand, one of this team’s most glaring weaknesses is its depth among position players…the bench is horrible. Campbell, Muno, Mayberry, the all-but-forgotten Tejada…none of these guys are going to help the Mets win many games. Sandy needs to make some position player moves similar to the pre-season acquisitions of bullpen lefties…some role players so that Syndergaard and deGrom are not literally the team’s best bats on the bench.

  • open the gates

    And, yeah, Noah’s fun to watch. Between him, Harvey, and DeGrom, and if Matz is as good as they say, and with Wheeler coming back next year, this team could be close to damn well unbeatable in the very near future.

  • BlondiesJake

    The Mets have the best pitching pitching staff and the best hitting pitching staff. With the return of d’Arnaud and eventually Herrera, the offense will be better and the bench will be stronger. If Wright comes back, even stronger, but if he can’t, I expect Alderson will make a move to add a bat.

    And while I know the Nats will win the division, I hope the Mets can stay within a few games of them as I think it will help the mindset as the summer goes along.

  • Eric

    Jekyll and Hyde team. Seems like every series they’re either sweeping teams while looking like a clutch-hitting team with more than occasional bursts of offense or they’re being swept while looking outclassed.

  • dmg

    a sweep is always tasty, and a sweep of the phillies is especially savory. but subtract the 8-1 record against them so far this year, and you’ve got a below .500 mets record of 19-20.

    • BlondiesJake

      Last time I checked, you can only beat the teams you play. Most winning teams build their records by crushing the lousy teams and splitting with quality ones.

      • Dennis

        Great point and the last time I checked as well you don’t subtract those wins from your overall record either. 27-21, a sweep of the hated Phillies, and people want to bring up negatives. If the Mets have a superior record against the bad teams, a below average record against better teams, and make the playoffs, does it really matter?

        • dmg

          y’all seem to think i was trying to be a downer. i was just responding to the comment immediately above talking about jekyll and hyde. one reason the mets have had stretches of looking like clutch hitters is because they’ve played the phillies 9 times.

  • Harvey

    The only other Met pitcher to hit a grand slam was Jack Hamilton in 1967. He hit it off old friend Al Jackson.
    In the last 48 years, no Met pitcher has hit a grand slam. Thor will be the next one

  • Pumpsie

    …and as a pinch hitter.

  • mikeL

    ^^ how bad-ass would that be. bases loaded, no more clutch bats on the bench…and up steps THOR!
    i like it!

    and yes, mets swept the phils. no need for win-loss record over-analysis. i like that too.

  • Bob

    June 15, 2002– At Shea, Shawn Estes threw behind that dirty, lying, drug using liar Roger Clemens and in 5th inning hit a HR off roid-rage roger.
    A very happy moment in my 52 years of being a Met fan!
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Dave

    Bob – loved Estes taking that lying cheating SOB deep, but if you were satisfied with a pitch simply going behind Clemens’ back, my hat’s off to you, you’re a better man than I. I wanted to see cheddar in his ear :-)

    • Bob

      Dave–agree with you–either way it all worked out–cost the liar/cheat & his team a run also.
      Let’s Go Mets!

  • Pat O'Hern

    Let’s play him at 3rd when he’s not pitching!

  • open the gates

    Again – Noah’s fun to watch. He’s also just four starts into his ML career. Let’s not rename him The Babe just yet.

  • BlondiesJake

    Agreed, “The Babe just yet” is a bad nickname. We can just stick with THOR!

  • George

    I was also at the Futures Game in 2013. I sat behind the visitors dugout but I left for the Caesar’s Club after a few innings as it was very hot with the sun directly overhead.