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.