2022 Atlanta Braves player review: Spencer Strider

Spencer Stryder has been historically good in his rookie campaign for the 2022 Atlanta Braves. Stryder has worked his way up the rotation and delivered one of the most dominant rookie seasons we’ve seen from a pitcher in some time.

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

Despite his rise through the Braves farm system, Strider wasn’t locked out for the Opening Day roster. Ultimately, he may have taken advantage of a late start to the 2022 season as the Braves decided to carry him to their 28-man roster as their long relief option to start the season.

How Spencer Stryder cracked and strengthened the Atlanta Braves’ rotation

Stryder spent the first month of the season going over why he deserved a spot in the rotation. In fact, it was the Braves’ fifth game of the season and first World Series ring night for fans and some friends and I decided to take a trip from upstate South Carolina to see our Braves play.

Huascar Ynoa got his first start of the season against the Reconstructing Nationals, and it didn’t fair well. He only lasted three innings and gave up five earned runs. However, Strider followed and provided the Braves with some much needed length from the bullpen, throwing 3 innings off one run ball.

The April 11th outing left many Braves fans wondering if Strider could pin the back of the Braves’ rotation. Can a rookie who relied so much on just two pitches truly thrive as a major league starter? It has already been seen by many as a significant leverage easing option and perhaps closer to the future. But with every chance he’s gotten on the bullpen, he’s shown time and time again why he deserves at least a look as a piece in the spin. And this became the theme of the first part of the season for Strider.

During May 25, Strider’s last relief appearance of the season, he threw 24.1 innings in relief with a 2.22 ERA and 37K. I pair that with a K/9 of 13.68 and an FIP of 1.43. These numbers across a total of 11 relief appearances, eight of which were scoreless.

Until the end of May, the Braves’ young flamethrower sat back and watched Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, and Bryce Elder all get a chance to grab the last turnover. While none of the aforementioned pitchers proved they could hang on to that fifth position in the rotation, Stryder finally got his calling on May 30 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

However, his first start was far from perfect. Stryder went 4.1 innings pitched while giving up five runs (despite earning only three) and striking out seven. Perhaps the way that start unfolded though gave the Braves confidence that he could stay in the rotation. During that outing, Stryder threw 16 changes from 72 total pitches. It was this willingness to make the adaptations needed to get in the same lineup more than once that helped give the Braves some confidence that he was the kind of player who could be a major league player.

From there, the Braves held the famous team meeting in Arizona, flipped the calendar to June, called up Michael Harris II, and both Stryder and the Brave never looked back. What followed was a 14-game winning streak and a new piece in the spin to count on.

Across five starts in June, Strider had an ERA of 3.24, a strikeout percentage of 33.7% and an FIP of 2.55. Perhaps more important than the raw numbers he put up was the slack he got in the rotation. Not only did Stryder anchor the backfield, he also outperformed the running back Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton who was struggling with a home run. This gave the Braves someone to rely on besides Fried and Wright to turn around and propelled the Braves to an amazing June.

Although we touched on his use of the changeup during his first start, it was Strider’s other off-pace pitch that contributed most to his success in 2022. Throughout the season, Strider used his fastball 67% of the time while relying on his slider Its (28.2%) and change (4.8%) and the rest 33% of the time.

The Strider slider was an elite move. I’ll throw the numbers at you and let you decide how big they look. His slider has racked up 148 plate appearances. He racked up 74K with the slider and allowed just one homer, while holding hitters to xSLG of .162 and .164 xwOBA. All while having a whiff of 52.2% on its slider.

Stryder has proven he can make it through big league lineups using only his two elite pitches. Over the last two and a half months from the beginning of July to his final start on September 18th, he put up some pretty scary stats. These include: a K/9 over 14 and a BB/9 under 3, a 1.59 FIP and 2.02 xFIP, a strikeout 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 start on September 1 against the Colorado Rockies. The game left baseball fans convinced of Stryder’s superstardom, and put a stamp on his rookie magic campaign.

When the dust settled in the regular season, Stryder settled into the Braves’ rotation and delivered some unreal marks in his rookie season. He finished with 131.2 IP, 2.67 ERA, 202K, 1.83 FIP and 4.9 fWAR.

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

According to Fangraphs, Strider’s 4.9 fWAR is a rookie’s top 15 since 1940, and the best single-marker since Hideo Nomo’s 5.2 fWAR in 1995. No wonder AA made the Strider its newest young brawler with a new contract extension. Here’s the joy we diehard fans will have as we watch our mustachioed flamethrower break into formations to move forward.

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