The Los Angeles Angels highest-paid starting pitcher is also their riskiest heading into 2022. Noah Syndergaard — who signed a one-year, $21 million deal with the Angels before the lockout — has pitched just 2.0 innings since 2019. In those two innings, he was not allowed to throw breaking balls.
This was all a part of his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which saw him lose two seasons of his prime after being one of the most dominant pitchers of the latter half of the 2010s. From 2015-18, Syndergaard had a 2.93 ERA while averaging nearly 130 innings per season and six innings per start.
So as the Angels make their preparations for 2022, many wondered if there would be some sort of innings limit for Syndergaard in his first full season since 2019. After a Spring Training start that saw Syndergaard toss 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball, Joe Maddon explained what type of plan they see him being on, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“The plan is there is no plan,” Maddon said. “Just like with Shohei, the plan is to react to the day. How are you feeling? What does the game look like? In between starts will be critical. Going into the next start to see if there’s any kind of a red flag. I’m a little sorer than normal, that kind of thing. But he’s eager. He’s eager to get out there. He doesn’t want any kind of restrictions on him either, which I, if I’m an athlete, I prefer working that way.”
Allowing Syndergaard to have the same freedom that Shohei Ohtani had in 2021 could lead to some brilliant results. Last season, each day was a conversation with Ohtani regarding his physical well-being and his fatigue level.
If there were any concerns — like late-season fatigue or an early-season blister — Ohtani’s starts would be delayed or skipped. Luckily, the Angels employing a six-man rotation allows them this sort of flexibility with their stars.
If Syndergaard has fatigue in his arm on the day of a start, the Angels can simply move to the next man in the rotation without anyone ever having to pitch on short rest. That way, Syndergaard can be in charge of his innings without any need for a hard limit.
Jared Walsh hoping to improve against lefties
Very few All-Star level players have as drastic of righty-lefty splits as Jared Walsh. His OPS against right-handed pitchers was .400 higher than it was against southpaws, giving him an obvious point of emphasis during the offseason.
Now, Walsh is making it his mission to improve against left-handed pitching in 2022, as the Angels need him in the lineup as often as possible.