THOR VS. DOC GOODEN by Tom Brennan

THOR VS. DOC GOODEN by Tom Brennan
I was watching Noah Syndergaard dealing against the Nationals on Saturday.  
Sit back and enjoy stuff. 
Searing fastballs at 97, 98, 99 seemingly effortlessly. Terrific movement. Great change. Great curve.  In other words, great. 
When his pitching day was done, he looked ready to go 7 more. Thor is an apt nickname for Noah, as he displays almost mythical abilities. He also almost decapitated Gio Gonzalez with a liner.
He's had a few growing pains along the way, but towards season's end, he showed that he was shedding his rookie garb and putting on the one labeled "veteran, constantly improving."
Reminded me of another remarkable rookie of years past, Doc Gooden.  
There was nothing like watching Doc at the start of his career... 
Unless you saw another Doc as a rookie, Dr J, Julius Erving, who was an athletic freak when he came into the American Basketball Association.
So I thought: why not compare the two (Thor and Doc G) at similar points in their extremely young rookie campaigns.  Thor was 22 most of this year, Gooden just 19.  Let's take a look:
  • Thor threw 150 major league innings this year, 3.26 ERA, 126 hits, 31 walks, 166 Ks.
  • Doc's first 149 innings thru mid - August 1984, 3.24 ERA, 124 hits, 61 walks, 181 Ks.
Remarkably similar, wouldn’t you say? Thor had a few less Ks, a lot less walks. One big contrast so far is Thor's propensity, to date, of surrendering long balls (19), vs. just 7 for Gooden.
After those first 149 innings, Gooden was utterly remarkable in his last 69 innings in that inaugural season, including a 1 hitter and 2 sixteen strikeout games back to back during that September, clearly making him the rookie of the year, a remarkable season serving as a prelude to 1985, one of the greatest seasons any pitcher ever had (24-4, 1.49 ERA, 268 K).  
I think he was overused those first two seasons, and while he remained a superior starter for many years after 1985, his 1984 and 1985, at the age of 19 and 20, were his most remarkable.
Thor, like Gooden, showed real signs of acceleration late in his rookie season, with 21 Ks and just a single walk in his last 2 starts over 15.2 IP, and an improved 10.2 Ks per 9 over his last 127 innings. His control is nothing short of remarkable, and he's got too much stuff to not significantly lower his homers-allowed rate.  Which tells me that a year approaching Gooden's 1985 Cy Young year is not beyond Thor to deliver in 2016.
Every elite pitcher has to avoid injury and maintain their superior stuff to be great, obviously. 
Gooden to me slipped below elite status after 1985, probably due to overwork in his first 2 years: 495 IP plus playoffs, 23 complete games.  Not to mention 544 Ks...a whole lot of K cards.  But after 1985, he toiled to a 3.83 ERA, with only 2 years having an ERA below 3.00 (2.84, 2.89). 

Considering the extreme care of young pitchers, teams, and agents, today, to protect their assets by limiting innings compared to what Doc threw, and with Thor's extremely athletic physique (Gooden was a great athlete but more slender), I think Thor has every chance to be extremely durable.  

As such, it is not at all unreasonable to expect Thor to have a greater career than Doc, who was a fine 194-112, 3.51 with 2293 Ks in 2800 innings, so thinking Thor could surpass that shows the great expectations that I hold for Syndergaard. 

But first, Thor gets to dazzle us in the 2015 Playoffs.  Can't wait.  

For Dodger fans, the cry may go out "Is there a Doctor in the house?" after the pitching carnage Thor may inflict on those mere West Coast mortals.  

Drop the Uru Hammer on them, Thor. 

No mercy.



Mack Ade said...

Tom -

good comparison

It's impossible to compare two pitchers from two different era... add to that the fact that one is just getting started.

I will say this...

Syndergaard will pitch more years for the Mets simply due to his clean lifestyle

Gary Seagren said...

Interesting article and boy those were the days. I guess we will see first hand how an elite talent like Thor will respond going forward with today's restrictions.....just maybe inning's limits will benefit his career.

Thomas Brennan said...

Living clean is a must, as we can see with CC Sabathia as well as Doc and Straw ( and of course Jennry Mejia). I think Thor is super in 2016.

Adam Smith said...

If he stays healthy, I honestly think that Noah has the highest ceiling of all the Mets' starters. 99 MPH late in games? That's freakish. As are the walk numbers. And this is his 22 year-old season. Next year I fully expect him to perfect the Warthan slider, a pitch he already throws at the second highest velocity in baseball. I don't think you could come up with a list of the ten most likely 2016 NL Cy Young winners without him on it, in what will be his first full season. ifhe can stay healthy, he will be one of the best pitchers in the game for years to come.

Mack Ade said...

Adam -

We talk about the potential of Thor, Harvey, deGrom, and Matz in 2016... but my wishes are that the Mets concentrate during the off-season on adding quality relief pitchers to join Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

I agree with you... we look in pretty good shape through six, maybe seven innings.

Anonymous said...

Not complaining at all, but what the hell was Toronto thinking in the Dickey trade? (thankfully it appears that they weren't thinking all that much)

Thomas Brennan said...

@ Adam: the beauty is JAKE and HARVEY have to be in 2016's top 10 :/ Young candidates.

To Mack's point, a very strong bullpen is important, and one reason is not fritter away late game leads. The 1985 Cardinals were something like 79-0 in games they led after 7 innings. Do that, and we've got a really good chance of a Cy Young in Queens in 2016.

The Jays were knuckleheads to give up that much for the Knuckler. What will the Jays give up for Mickey Jannis...Encarnacion??

Ernest Dove said...

Ha......I know I've commented on this in the past.......
At the time, Thor was probably still a teenager (or maybe turned 20)
Travis was the most injury prone of what I believe was 3 top 25 team catching prospects in th jays against.
And Beccera was like 17yrs old.
The Bluejays are what we hope the Mets become. A team giving away kids because their major leaguers are competing for titles and 90 win seasons every year.

Thankfulky it may have worked out HUGE for Mets.

eraff said...

Gooden stepped on the Field as one of the best pitchers EVER. He was Complete...Finished...Over Powering. He was IT.

There are few Pitchers who do what he did at such a young age...and it wasn't that he was godd FOR a Young Pitcher...He Was among the most overpowering pitchers EVER each time he toed the Rubber at 19...and he WAS only 19.

The idea that he faded because of "misuse" is a reach---HE misused himself and erroded his own skills.

Thomas Brennan said...

Ernest,that Dickey trade worked out huge indeed. What a miracle that turned out to be...a guy signed as an apparently washed up journeyman got the minimum, gave them two very solid starting years, then won the Cy Young in the 3rd year, then brings in a treasure trove of players from the Jays in a trade for him. The best move in team history turned out to be getting Dickey.

And Becerra might still develop into a starting major league OF.

Thomas Brennan said...

@ Eraff...True about Gooden's self abuse.

But I did read an article once where he commented how incredibly sore he was after some of his early career starts. I believe that may have deteriorated him more than the drugs. Starting in 1986, he was still very good, but major slippage...his ERA doubled and he never came close to that early superiority. I could be wrong, but that is my take.

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