After Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani — whatever order you want to put them in, I’ve said my piece — there may not be a player in the majors who drafts songs that blow your mind like Spencer Strider’s. The fireball 23-year-old rookie has been utterly dominant this season, especially since he entered the Braves rotation on May 30. way.
Going through his usual one-two punch of a 90s four-seam fastball and a mind-boggling slider, Strider knocked out 10 Phillies in six innings during his 5-2 win, with Nick Maton going down swinging against a 99 stove. mph in the fifth inning for No. 200. Strider had a no-hitter going at that point and held it for 5.2 innings before Alec Bohm hit a solo homerun against him.
Strider became the sixth pitcher to strike out 200 batters this season. What’s extraordinary is how few innings it took him to do compared to the previous five:
Pitchers with 200 Strikeouts in 2022
|Pitcher||Team||I P||TBF||SO||K%||Date of 200th||Innings up to 200|
SOURCE: Baseball Reference
In fact, Strider set a record for the fewest innings it took to reach the 200 strikeout plateau, in 130 innings, 0.2 less than Randy Johnson needed in 2001. in 2019.
To be fair, Johnson did so in a much lower strikeout environment. Against K%+, a normalized strikeout percentage where 100 equals the league average, Johnson had a score of 208 in 2001, meaning he struckout at just over twice the league average. With a cutoff of 120 inning, it ranks 13th among the pitchers of the integration era (from 1947). Strider has “only” a 170 K%+, meaning he knocks out batters at 1.7 times the league percentage, just 105th by those parameters. As with so many context-corrected pitching stats, it’s Pedro Martinez who tops this list, with a 239 K%+ in 1999, the year he retired 313 batters in 213.1 innings. Martinez reached 200 in 147 innings, via a rare relief needed by a late arrival at the stadium (and foreshadowing his Divison Series Game 5 exploits a few months later).
Strider is the 17th rookie since 1901 to strike out 200 batters in a season, and the first in this millennium to do so without pitching in Nippon Professional Baseball before:
Rookie pitchers with 200 strikeouts
There are many cautionary tales in the above list, though Score, Gooden, and Wood’s issues—to name three of the most famous here—have little to do with each other. The chronological breakdown of these players is remarkable, with four pitchers (including Hall of Famers Mathewson and Alexander) from the dead-ball era, then just one between that period and the relatively pitcher-friendly 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, then a jump to five from the Wild Card era, three of whom got their start in Japan. If you’re wondering what K%+ is out of this group: Score (222), Gooden (212), Wood (190) and Nomo (177) have all surpassed Strider.
Strider is also the first of those rookies to have a total strikeout count that is more than double his total hits allowed. With the same 120-inning cutoff, only 11 pitchers have doubled this way, including another pitcher this year and two from last year:
Pitchers with twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed
SOURCE: Baseball Reference
Minimum of 120 innings pitched.
Speaking again of how a high strikeout era has made this possible, all but two pitchers here are from the past six seasons, with Johnson and Martinez the only pitchers to do so beforehand; the aforementioned seasons of both Johnson and Cole are represented here. Note that Javier has flown somewhat under the radar in making this list, as most of the attention for Astros starters has gone to Verlander, the AL winners and ERA leader and likely Cy Young Award frontrunner, and Framber Valdez, who is on the brink of the Cy Young discussion and has just set a one-season record with its 25th consecutive quality start.
These standout numbers shouldn’t obscure Strider’s impact on the Braves’ season. He’s made some giant strides in a short space of time since being picked in the fourth round of Clemson University’s 2020 draw after missing out on all of last season due to surgery on Tommy John. After playing at five levels from A-ball to the majors in 2021 (2.1 innings in two games of the regular season in October), he broke camp with the team in April and made 13 relief appearances, including he dominated in low leverage situations (2.22 ERA, 1.42 FIP, 38.9% strikeout rate). He joined the rotation on May 30, quickly cementing fifth place behind Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson. By most measures, he has surpassed them all in that time frame:
Since Strider joined the Rotation on May 30th
Strider is fourth in innings in this group, but leads the pack – even Fried, who made the NL All-Star team – with more than a full win in this period. Including his time in the bullpen, he holds a 4.9-4.6 lead in WAR over Fried and the lowest FIP (1.83) and xERA (2.39) of the group; his 2.67 ERA is second to Fried’s 2.52. Between Wright flattening out after a strong start and Anderson pitching his way back to Triple-A (and suffering recently.) an oblique tension that will likely end his season), Strider’s performance looms large in terms of the Braves’ reversal from a 23-27 start.
In fact, Strider’s FIP and xERA are the lowest among the majors’ pitchers with at least 130 innings, and his 38.3% strikeout percentage and 29.7% strikeout walk difference are the highest. Even while falling 15.1 innings short of qualifying for the ERA title (the Braves have played 147 games, he has 131.2 innings in total), he is seventh in the majors in WAR behind Rodón (5.7 ), Nola (5.5), Kevin Gausman (5.2), Verlander (5.1), Sandy Alcantara (5.1) and Ohtani (5.0).
Remarkably, Strider does all this more or less as a pitcher with two pitches. He’s like a closer throwing five innings at the start of a game (to paraphrase someone I forgot; apologies in advance). No starting pitcher throws his four-seamer as often as Strider (67%), but it’s a damn good four-seamer. Not only does it average 98.2 mph at a high spin rate (2,343 RPM, putting it in the 76th percentile), but it also has a lot of movement and pull thanks to its size (listed as 6-foot-0) and extension (6 .9 feet, 93rd percentile). Coupled with that speed – hey, good luck. As Justin Choi wrote in July when he compared Strider’s fastball to Hunter Greene’s, which hits triple digits with greater regularity (28% of all four seamers, compared to 5% for Strider):
[A] lack of height actually works in his favor as Strider can get on top of the ball without drastically increasing his release point. You can also tell from their respective deliveries that Strider releases the ball closer to home plate than Greene. The benefit of extra extension is simple: To a batter, the field seems faster and thus more difficult to deal with. Triple digit Strider is more devastating than triple digit Greene.
…Compared to Greene, it’s Strider that not only creates more vertical movement, but also unleashes it through a lower release point and longer extension. Its approach angle is therefore flatter, creating the illusion of ascent.
Updating the table Choi included in the equation:
Spencer Strider vs. Hunter Greene Fastball Comparison
|Pitcher||Speed||VMov (in.)||H Displacement (in.)||V Rel (ft.)||H Rel (ft.)||Extension (ft.)|
SOURCE: SOURCE: Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leadboard
Negative values for horizontal movement and release point have been reversed for easier reading.
Batters have only achieved a .201 average and a .295 slugging percentage when connecting to Strider’s fastball, which is rare considering its 27.7% whiff rate. They’ve struggled even more with his slider, which has vastly improved since Eric Longenhagen rated the field as “still below average and not filthy enough to miss bats in the strike zone” in his June prospect report, listing it as a 40 -gift rated and 45 future. He throws it 28.2% of the time, with batters hitting .139, hitting .197 and sniffing 52.2% of the time. He rounds out his arsenal with a change-up (4.8%), which, despite minimal use, has stunned the batters as they hit .136 and hit .237 against it, snorting 47.5% of the time.
If there’s a knock on Strider, it’s that he generally doesn’t throw deep in games because of so many deep counts. He has an average of NL-high 4.31 pitches per at bat and has only thrown more than six innings twice, most recently his eight-inning, two-hit on September 1 against the Rockies, in which he set a franchise record with 16 strikeouts . Manager Brian Snitker has been fairly careful with him and has built him up slowly; he averaged 90 pitches per start in June, progressing to 93, 94 and 104 pitches in every month since. In his last six starts, he has thrown between 102 and 106 pitches (the latter his season high) and at least six innings five times, pitching to a 1.70 ERA and 1.46 FIP along the way. Last year, he threw 96.1 innings, so he’s 35 innings down now, and I imagine the Braves’ postseason plans for him are to stick with the five- to six-innings innings and the bullpen for the to take care of the rest.
All in all, Strider had a great season. With all due respect to teammate Michael Harris II, who hit .305/.343/.537 with a 142 wRC+ and 4.4 WAR since his arrival on May 28 and played an equally important part in the team’s turnaround, I think Strider will be my choice for NL Rookie of the Year. What Harris has done is special and impressive, but as the numbers above suggest, what Strider has done is out of this world.