The first Atlanta Braves player to win an award this off-season has the best mustache in the league and ice water in his veins.
Atlanta Braves pitcher Spencer Strider turned 28 today but received an early birthday present on Thursday when The Sporting News announced his selection as the publication’s National League Rookie of the Year.
Cleveland selected Strider out of high school in 2017, but he elected to honor his commitment to Clemson. He tore his UCL in 2019 and didn’t pitch again until 2020, when he threw only 12 innings over four games.
Undeterred by his lack of inning and the short 2020 season, the Atlanta Braves selected Strider in the fourth round of the 2020 Rule 4 Draft.
Strider’s swept through all four levels of the club’s minor-league system in 2021 and made his major league debut against the Mets on October 1, just 467-day after signing with the Braves.
The Braves were impressed with his performance and kept the young righty on their roster for the NLDS.
Amazing Rookie Season
Strider earned a spot in the bullpen when the Atlanta Braves broke camp this season. He appeared in relief 11 times over the first two months of the season, throwing 24 1/3 innings, pitching to a 2.22 ERA while striking out 37 batters, and walking 11.
At the end of May, the Braves added him to the rotation. From May 30 through September 18, Strider made 20 starts, threw 107 1/3 innings, striking out 165 batters (13.8 per 9IP), and walking 34 while pitching to a 2.77 ERA, 1.92 FIP.
Batters hit a feeble .183/.252.274.526 with Strider on the bump, understandable as he struck out 65% of batters faced and posted a 13.8 K/9 rate.
I got your records!
When Strider recorded his 10th and 11th strikeouts to end the sixth inning of his September 1 start, he’d thrown 71 pitches and allowed one hit. He struck out the side in the seventh on 12 pitches.
Many teams would have pulled Strider after two men reached base with only one out, but manager Brian left Strider on the mound. Ten pitches later, Strider had 16 strikeouts and replaced Hall of Famer John Smoltz as the Atlanta-based pitcher with the most strikeouts in a game and second on the all-time list behind Hall of Famer Warren Spahn (18).
On September 18, Strider became the fastest pitcher in baseball to reach 200 strikeouts in a season when he struck out Nick Maton in the top of the fifth. The Braves rewarded Strider’s superb rookie campaign with a six-year, $75M extension on October 10.
Remember his name
Atlanta Braves fans watched Strider do all this, and I’m not sure they fully understand what they saw. Strider’s 94-game score was the best in baseball this year.
Among 103 pitchers who started in at least 60% of their appearances and threw 120 or more innings, no one had a higher K/9 than Striders 13.8. Strider’s 202 strikeouts rank 11th, but every pitcher with more also threw at least 40 more innings.
That’s a wrap
The Sporting News awards may signal Strider as the favorite for the BBWAA award, ahead of teammate Michael Harris II, but it isn’t a lock. In recent years the two groups agreed most of the time, but in the last two years, they differed.
Awards aside, pitcher’s like Strider don’t come along very often. He’s must-see TV every time he takes the mound; make sure you’re watching.