Atlanta Braves 2024 season preview: Cy Young the expectation for Spencer Strider

Just like this Braves team as a whole, Spencer Strider has near limitless expectations heading into the 2024 season. Can he reach those expections? All the early signs are pointing to yes.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

It wasn't that long ago when the Braves started their torrent run of now six-straight NL East titles in 2018, that fans were begging for a true ace. At that time, Julio Teheran was making his fifth of six straight opening day starts, a franchise record. But most Braves fans weren't kidding themselves, he wasn't that ace where it felt like every time he was on the bump, the Braves had a very good chance to win.

Fast forward to 2024, and the Braves arguably have two bona fide aces at the top of their rotation. And as much fun as it would be to rave about Max Fried's potential this season, this one is about Spencer Strider, a man who in just two short years, is the easy odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young.

What worked for the flamethrowing righty in 2023

Let's get the obvious out of the way, his strikeout rate.

There isn't a player in the MLB currently that is better at punching out opposing batters than Strider and that showed in the numbers by a wide margin last season.

Strider posted one of the best strikeout seasons by any starting pitcher in MLB history in 2023, posting an absurd 13.5 K/9 which ranks fourth in MLB history behind Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole and Jacob DeGrom, all Cy Young winners by the way. That K/9 was 1.85 higher than second in the MLB Blake Snell.His 281 strikeouts broke the Braves single-season record.

It's that number that makes him basically everyone's favorite to win a Cy Young in his third season, but why was he getting those strikeouts? Simply put, his stuff is nasty.

His fastball velocity is in the 93rd percentile amongst all pitchers in the MLB and when you pair that with a slider that has a 55% whiff rate, good for 24th of any pitch in the entire major league, you get a heap ton of strikeouts.

Now his ERA wasn't as good as a lot of people might have hoped at 3.86, a sizeable increase from his 2.67 ERA during his rookie campaign.

That was because of a rising of his HR/9, giving up just over a home run per nine innings, up from 0.5 in 2021 while also giving up more hit per nine at seven, up from 5.9.

If only he could add another nasty breaking pitch to that pitching arsenal that could keep hitters off-balance more often. (That's called foreshadowing folks).

What to expect from Strider in 2024

Strikeouts. A lot of them.

Fangraphs have him projected at 12.8 K/9 for this season but honestly it'd be surprising if he doesn't eclipse the 13 mark for a third straight season.

But that's all a given. What he needs to do is focus on limiting the hard contact when hitters can get a hold of him, and that's clearly been a point of emphasis for Strider going into this season.

He' s added a curveball to his arsenal. Why does that matter? It means his fastball which averaged out at 97.2 MPH last season, and his slider which averaged out at 85.6, has a counterpart in a curveball that, during his opening day start on Friday, averaged 80.6 MPH.

It can go even lower, which means a speed difference of nearly 20 MPH from his fastball to the curveball. That will allow Strider to keep players off balance more often, which in turn will hopefully lead to weaker contact and less home runs.

If he can do that and keep his strikeout numbers anywhere close to what they were in 2023, it's might be difficult for him not to win the NL Cy Young.

So place the bets on him now folks, the odds aren't going to get any better.

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