Atlanta Braves 2022 Player Review: Spencer Strider

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 06: Spencer Strider #65 of the Atlanta Braves pitches during the third inning of the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Truist Park on May 6, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 06: Spencer Strider #65 of the Atlanta Braves pitches during the third inning of the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Truist Park on May 6, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Spencer Strider was historically good in his rookie campaign for the 2022 Atlanta Braves. Strider earned his way into the rotation and put forth one of the most dominant rookie seasons we have seen from a pitcher in quite some time.

Spencer Strider went into his rookie campaign with just 2.1 innings under his belt at the major league level. In 2021, he burned through the Braves minor league system and worked all the way up from Low-A Augusta to a September call-up with the big league club.

Despite his ascension through the Braves farm system, Strider was no lock for the Opening Day roster. Ultimately, he may have benefited from the delayed start to the 2022 season as the Braves decided to carry him on the 28-man roster as their long relief option to begin the season.

How Spencer Strider cracked into and solidified the Atlanta Braves rotation

Strider spent the first month of the season showcasing why he deserved a spot in the rotation. In fact, it was the Braves fifth game of the season and the first World Series ring night for the fans that some friends and I decided to make the trip from upstate South Carolina to watch our Braves play.

Huascar Ynoa got his first start of the season against the rebuilding Nationals, and he did not fair very well. He lasted just three innings and gave up five earned runs. However, Strider followed and provided the Braves with some much needed length out of the bullpen, throwing 3 innings of one run ball.

That April 11th outing left many Braves fans wondering if Strider could steady the back of the Braves rotation. Could a rookie who was so reliant on just two pitches really thrive as a major league starter? Many had already deemed him as a high-leverage relief option and potentially the closer of the future. But with every opportunity he got out the bullpen, he repeatedly showcased why he at least deserved a look as a piece in the rotation. And this became a theme of the early portion of the season for Strider.

Through May 25th, Strider’s last relief appearance of the season, he tossed 24.1 innings in relief with a 2.22 ERA and 37 K’s. He accompanied that with a K/9 of 13.68 and a FIP of 1.43. Those numbers across a total of 11 relief appearances, eight of which were scoreless.

It was until the end of May that the Braves’ young flamethrower sat by and watch Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, and Bryce Elder all get a shot to hold down the last rotation spot. While none of the previously mentioned pitchers proved they could stick at that fifth spot in the rotation, Strider finally got his call on May 30th against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

However, his first start was far from perfect. Strider went 4.1 innings while giving up five runs (although only three were earned) and striking out seven. Perhaps it was how that start unfolded though that gave the Braves confidence he could stick in the rotation. During that outing, Strider threw 16 changeups out of his 72 total pitches. It was this willingness to do the necessary adaptions to get through the same lineup more than once that help give the Braves some confidence he was the kind of guy that could be a major league starter.

From there, the Braves had that well-known team meeting in Arizona, the calendar flipped to June, they called up Michael Harris II, and both Strider and the Braves never looked back. What ensued was a 14 game winning streak and new piece in the rotation that could be counted on.

Across five starts in June, Strider had an ERA of 3.24, a strikeout percentage of 33.7% and a FIP of 2.55. Maybe more important than the raw numbers he put up was the slack he picked up in the rotation. Not only did Strider stabilize the backend, but he also was performing better than a regressed Ian Anderson and a Charlie Morton who was struggling with the home run ball. This gave the Braves someone to lean on besides Fried and Wright in the rotation and propelled the Braves to an incredible June.

Although we touched on his changeup usage during his first start, it was Strider’s other off-speed pitch that had a major contribution to his success in 2022. Throughout the season Strider utilized his elite fastball 67% of the time while relying on his slider (28.2%) and changeup (4.8%) the other 33% of the time.

The Strider slider was an elite pitch. I’ll throw the numbers at you and let you decide how eye-popping they are. His slider concluded 148 plate appearances. He racked up 74 K’s with the slider and allowed just one homer, while holding hitters to an xSLG of .162 and .164 xwOBA. All while having a whiff% of 52.2 on his slider.

Strider proved he can mow through big league lineups with just two elite pitches. Over the final two and a half month stretch from the beginning of July until his last start on September 18th, he put up some daunting statistics. These include: a K/9 over 14 and BB/9 under 3, a 1.59 FIP and 2.02 xFIP, an opponent’s average of .175, a WHIP of 0.94, and finally a 3.4 fWAR, which was the best in all of Major League Baseball across that time.

Perhaps no start was more dominant than the historic September 1st start against the Colorado Rockies. This game left baseball fans convinced of Strider’s stardom, and put a stamp on his magical rookie campaign.

When the dust settled in the regular season, Strider had stabilized the Braves rotation and provided some unreal marks in his rookie season. He finished with a 131.2 IP, 2.67 ERA, 202 K’s, 1.83 FIP, and 4.9 fWAR.

Although his postseason start left a bad taste in mouth of Braves fans, we know we have a star in the making, and potential Cy Young award winner on our hands. It truly was unfortunate timing with the oblique injury that contributed to that postseason start, but regardless in 2022 Spencer Strider earned his way into the rotation with a magical rookie season.

Per Fangraphs, Strider’s 4.9 fWAR is the 15th best by a rookie since 1940, and the single best mark since Hideo Nomo’s 5.2 fWAR in 1995. It’s no wonder AA made Strider the latest young Brave with a new contract extension. Here’s to the joy that us Braves fans will get while we watch our mustached flamethrower carve up lineups going forward.

Next. Spencer should have won Rookie of the Year. dark