On May 30, 2022, MLB prospect Spencer Strider made his debut as a starter for the Atlanta Braves. He pitched 4.1 innings allowing five runs (three earned) in a losing effort. Since that start, Strider has been one of the top starters in the game.
Since June 1, Spencer Strider ranks fourth in the MLB with a gargantuan 76 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. He has worked to a 2.96 ERA over the last two months, better than a slew of All-Stars.
The scariest part is that Spencer Strider is underperforming his expected metrics, namely expected ERA. He is already pitching at an All-Star level, but he could be even better.
The defining characteristic of MLB prospect Spencer Strider’s game is one of MLB’s best fastballs. He averages 98.2 miles per hour on his fastball, even faster than the likes of Sandy Alcantara and Gerrit Cole. The only starter that throws harder than Strider is Hunter Greene.
While Greene’s four-seamer is one of the worst pitches in baseball (+13 run value), Strider has a top-10 pitch in the sport (-12 run value). Only Joe Ryan has a better run value on a four-seam fastball. Strider’s four-seamer has an identical run value to Zack Wheeler, the aforementioned Cole, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Rodon. It is elite.
Strider’s heavy fastball usage (69.1%) resembles that of a reliever, but Strider has been effective as a starter even as something of a two-pitch pitcher.
While not as elite as his fastball, Spencer Strider throws an effective slider, registering -3 run value across 354 pitches. Hitters have slugged a measly .172 against it, whiffing on 52.5% of pitches. Strider’s slider is nearly identical in whiff rate to Edwin Diaz on a similar number of pitches (52.4% on 352 pitches).
Strider is allowing an expected wOBA of .177 on his slider. In all of baseball, only Shane McClanahan’s changeup has been thrown as many times (424) with as low of an expected wOBA (.172).
With these two pitches, the MLB Prospect has overwhelmed the National League to the tune of 120 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. Without a crazy turn of events, Strider won’t qualify for the ERA title, but he will be top 10 in the NL in strikeouts.
Strike ‘Em Out
Despite not pitching into the seventh in any of his 11 starts, Spencer Strider has a trio of games with 11 or more strikeouts. He also had eight in 4.2 innings against the New York Mets as well as seven in his starting debut (4.1 innings pitched). In his 56 innings as a starter, Strider is striking out 13.3 batters per nine innings, similar to his 13.7 K/9 rate as a reliever. If his 11 starts were extrapolated over 34 starts in a full season, he would have 257 strikeouts in 173 innings pitched.
In the history of baseball, only six men have posted 13.3 K/9 as a starter (with a minimum of 10 starts). Randy Johnson struck out 13.4 batters per nine in 2001. Chris Sale hit the mark in both 2018 and 2019. The aforementioned Cole struck out 13.8 batters per nine in 2019. In 2020, Shane Bieber, Jacob deGrom, and Tyler Glasnow all cleared the mark. Last season, deGrom struck out 14.3 batters per nine in his 15 starts.
Strider ranks in the 89th percentile or better in expected wOBA, expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging, strikeout percentage, whiff rate, and fastball velocity. As impressive as his 2.91 ERA is, his expected ERA of 2.76 is perhaps even scarier.
The only part of Strider’s Baseball Savant page that is not red (above league average) is his 28th percentile walk rate. While his rate has improved since becoming a starter, he only has one start without a walk. On the other hand, he has walked at least three batters twice, significantly hurting his ability to go deep in games. Strider is routinely at or above 90 pitches in the sixth inning.
Strider is firmly entrenched as the team’s fifth starter, and he will be an integral piece moving forward. Even if the Braves traded for a starting pitcher at the deadline, Ian Anderson could get the bump to the bullpen because MLB prospect Strider has been incredibly effective.
Strider is currently second in the National League Rookie of the Year race to Michael Harris, but Strider has a strong case in his own right. With a strong finish to the season, Strider could even garner down-ballot Cy Young consideration.
When the walks are under control, Spencer Strider has been one of the top arms in baseball, and he should only get better as he adapts to the Majors and shakes off the title of an MLB Prospect. Strider will turn 24 at the end of October, so the best may be yet to come for the mustached superstar.
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