Column: The Noah Syndergaard experiment isn’t working. It’s time Dodgers put an end to it

Dodgers pitcher Noah Syndergaard stands in the dugout before a game against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium.
Pitcher Noah Syndergaard had another shaky start Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn’t ready to commit to him making his next one.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

It’s time for the Dodgers to drop the hammer on their Thor Experiment.

Noah Syndergaard showed again he’s impossibly far from being the commanding, near-invincible pitcher he was before the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020. His four-seam fastball has no thunder. His changeup won’t do what he wants. He has made tweaks and has tweaked those tweaks but nothing has happened to make his time with the Dodgers feel like anything besides a failed $13-millon experiment — and one that should end soon.

The latest case in point was his five-inning, five-run, seven-hit, three-home run performance Wednesday in the Dodgers’ 10-6 loss to the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium. After he gave up six runs in six innings at Tampa Bay on May 26, he expressed frustration and vowed to make adjustments. Whatever he did clearly had no positive impact: He induced only one swinging strike among the 96 pitches he threw and his four-seam fastball was nearly indistinguishable from his changeup.


Afterward he was visibly downcast, his voice barely audible as he spoke to reporters.

“I would give my hypothetical first born to be the old me again. I’ll do anything possible to get back to that,” he said.

That’s a dramatic way to put it. But is it realistic to expect he can become his old self again? And how many chances should he get?

Noah Syndergaard’s struggles continue and Dodgers’ bullpen falters in 10-6 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

May 31, 2023

Catcher Will Smith said he’s confident Syndergaard will bounce back, “at some point, whether it’s the next start or the start after that or the one after that. He’s too good of a pitcher not to come back and do well in this league.” But that seems more like wishful thinking than reality.

Even Smith acknowledged Syndergaard has been struggling with his changeup and cutter and has had to tinker with his curveball in his search for positive results.

“He’s kind of looking for anything right now, but no doubt he’ll find it and he’ll find his groove,” Smith insisted.

That groove looked far away against the Nationals. Syndergaard knew it. He felt it.

“I’m still expected to go out there and compete and today I just fell behind a lot of hitters. I couldn’t get my off-speed over for a strike and my changeup is just a huge vulnerability for me right now. It used to be a plus pitch and now it’s just a slower two-seam for me right now,” said Syndergaard who had success with his changeup last season while pitching for the Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies.


“I need to continue to work on that. I’ve been working on throwing a splitter in between starts. I threw a couple of those just for the hell of it, I didn’t have much to lose. I got one hitter out with one and the other one I just spiked in the dirt. So I’m still working on that.”

Dodgers pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals.
Dodgers pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

If not for injuries to Julio Urías, Dustin May and Ryan Pepiot, Syndergaard might have been out of the picture weeks ago. Thin as their pitching staff is, it makes no sense for the Dodgers to keep Syndergaard and his 6.54 earned-run average in the rotation.

Days off Thursday and Monday give manager Dave Roberts chances to skip Syndergaard’s next turn, but Roberts sidestepped a question about his plans.

“I don’t know. The hope is that he does [start], “Roberts said. “Right now I just don’t want to answer that question.”

Not answering is an answer sometimes.

Roberts was hesitant to pile on Syndergaard, saying only he didn’t know what to say about Wednesday’s performance.


“It’s a lot of the same as what we’ve seen,” Roberts said. “It’s certainly not a lack of preparation or effort. Just right now it’s just not working out.”

In trying to recapture his velocity and command, Syndergaard has studied images of his previous form and performances. He was struck by what he saw.

“Just the velocity and command are just the byproduct of when I look at video of me and video of me now and in the past, the body is moving completely different,” he said. “I’m trying to be as external as possible and just focused on results when I’m out there competing. Just in between, it’s not syncing up or clicking.”

Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 19 games, J.D. Martinez and Jason Heyward homered and the Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 9-3.

May 30, 2023

The longer he struggles, the worse he feels.

“I just feel like I’m the only weakest link on this team,” he said. “I want to go out there and compete and be successful for the other guys in this clubhouse, but it’s just not working out.”

It’s time to end the Thor Experiment. If that means the Dodgers have to dig deeper into their farm system, at least they’ll be able to get a look at their future. If that means they have to make a trade to shore up their rotation, they must seriously consider it. Thor’s hammer has no thunder anymore.