Atlanta Braves: Just how good was Spencer Strider’s start on Thursday?

A view of Spencer Strider's K’s after the Atlanta Braves starter recorded his 16th strikeout against the Colorado Rockie. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
A view of Spencer Strider's K’s after the Atlanta Braves starter recorded his 16th strikeout against the Colorado Rockie. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Whenever you break a franchise record for a team that’s been around for as long as the Atlanta Braves have, there’s automatically something special about the occasion.

The feat pulled off by Spencer Strider on Thursday night when the Atlanta Braves beat the Rockies was off the charts… almost no matter what metric you want to use to measure it with.

Let’s just start with the basics:  the 16 strikeouts.  Your first thought might be “well, it’s the Rockies… a last place team… so no big deal.”

Not so fast.  While their team may be 56-76 (and 20-44 on the road, both figures entering play on Friday), that says nothing about their ability to put a bat on the ball.

In fact, the Rockies rank as the 8th toughest team in the majors to strike out with a K-rate of 20.8%.  By contrast, our Braves are third easiest in the majors to generate whiffs against (24.8%).

We can go deeper since many of you are probably thinking “Coors Field Effect”.  On the road, the Rox are somewhat easier to strike out, but they’re still dead in the middle of the pack overall with a 22.8% K-rate away from Coors.

Also:  over the past 30 days, they are still 10th toughest to K in the majors, so it’s not like they’re in any kind of K-spree while just playing out the string this Summer.

One thing Strider did have going for him was the fact that the Rockies lineup tends not to walk, either:  over those same last 30 days, they walked in 5.4% of plate appearances — the 2nd lowest rate in the majors.

That means they are normally putting the ball in play at a high rate (second best contact rate in the majors)… yet Strider was blowing them away with 22 recorded swinging strikes.

He may have the look of someone from the movie Gunfight at the OK Corral, but Spencer Strider was shooting blanks last night.

He Shoots, He Scores!

Then there’s Strider’s game score:  a metric that attempts to capture just “how good was this start?”

In fangraphs’ description of this device, they suggest that anything in the range of 80-90 is “Excellent” and anything above 90 constitutes a game where you should “Make Sure Your Friends Are Watching”.

Strider’s game score?  99.

Even if you use ESPN’s version of this stat (giving him a game score of 94), Strider was still enjoying some significantly rarefied air.

ESPN’s chart of best MLB pitching game scores puts Strider at the top for 2022, beating out Tyler Mahle’s 93 from a game against Arizona on Flag Day.

The 2021 season saw 5 pitchers exceed that 94 score:  but 4 of those involved complete game no-hitters, 2 of those featuring no walks, though fewer strikeouts.

The only game “better” from that season that wasn’t a no-no was hurled by Jacob deGrom (of course):  a 2-hitter complete game with 15 K’s and a 98 score.

Notably, 3 complete game no-hitters from 2021 matched Strider’s 94 score, and he didn’t even come out for the 9th.

What the WPA?

Finally, let’s look at the WPA (Win Probability Added) for Strider on Thursday. give him a WPA of 0.427.

That may not be a meaningful number unless it’s put into context.  Let’s do that:

  • Kenley Jansen’s 1-2-3 9th inning performance garnered only a 0.034 WPA.
  • The entire Atlanta offense combined for a 0.359 WPA… and that includes Riley and Harris, the homer hitters.

Obviously, the Braves had to score before they could win (duh), but by that reckoning, Strider contributed even more than the offense to contribute to that victory last night!

Bottom line:  such games don’t just come around that often.

One more piece of context:  when John Smoltz set the Atlanta record with 15 strikeouts in a game (twice), here are his game scores:  86 (May 1992) and 70 (April 2005).

September 1st was a night of true dominance, and it came from someone who’s already throwing in a territory (in terms of both a league and number of innings) he’s never been to before.

Next. Watch out Michael, here come Spencer. dark

And as a rookie, he’s just getting started, folks.