The last time I wrote a feature article over here on this wonderful website, it was May 31. The Braves were going to lose their second game in a row to the Diamondbacks in agonizing fashion, they were heading for a 23-27 record and were just having a terrible time. Here we are on June 16 and hoo boy, things have changed considerably since then. They’re on a 14-game winning streak where they’re tearing the cover off of the ball, they’re pitching at a very high level and they’ve cut down on the number of mistakes that they’ve been making in the field and on the base paths.
Things are going so well for the Braves right now that Ozzie Albies went down for two months due to a freak foot injury and his replacement Orlando Arcia has responded by jumping right into the fray and mashing as well. Arcia even turned a defensive mistake into an out in the same breath and then smacked a homer in his next at-bat. When things are going well, they’re going well and things are going very well for the Braves at the moment.
With that being said, one of the most encouraging developments during this streak has been the fact that Spencer Strider has been doing pretty well as the newest member of Atlanta’s rotation. Granted, we already knew that Strider had what it took to make it happen as a pitcher at the Major League level but that was as a reliever. He’s definitely been getting it done as a starter, which is something that the Braves badly needed.
Let’s just start with the obvious and call back to my article back on the 31st:
Simply put, the Braves absolutely have to start getting something from their fifth starter since these games have been dragging the team down like an anchor. Seriously, if the Braves even had just a so-so record in those games, they’d at least be floating at or over .500 and the introductory paragraph to this article would’ve been a lot tougher to figure out. The obvious hope right now is that where Huascar Ynoa, Bryce Elder, Kyle Muller and Tucker Davidson stumbled, Spencer Strider can succeed.
So far, so good. The Braves currently have a 3-1 record in games started by Spencer Strider. It’s early days but that is exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to games where the other four starters aren’t getting the ball. While it sure helps that Strider has received a pretty smooth transition from big league reliever to big league starter due to facing four of the worst offenses in baseball according to wRC+, it’s also pretty tough to imagine that anybody would have an easy time dealing with Strider’s combo of a fiery fastball and a slider that seemingly comes out of nowhere like an RKO. The competition is poor, but Strider is working from a pretty strong foundation when it comes to his stuff on the mound.
Additionally, it seems like Strider has been getting better with each and every start so far. Last night’s start for Strider may not have been as pristine as his outing against the Pirates where he shut out Pittsburgh for 5.2 innings, but we finally got to see what happens when Strider’s fastball is too much for a given lineup to deal with. Strider went 5.2 innings again, but this time he struck out 11 Nationals batters before eventually giving way. That performance took Strider’s strikeout per nine innings rate up to a staggering 13.91.
To put that in perspective, Strider is currently the league leader in that category among all pitchers in baseball who have pitched at least 40 innings this season. Obviously that’s taking his relief pitching days into consideration, which tells you that the strikeouts definitely aren’t a mirage. Again, it’s pretty hard to deal with constantly seeing 100 miles-per-hour heaters while trying to handle nasty sliders as well. As a result, Strider is sitting on an ERA of 2.45 and a FIP of 2.07. I’d be shocked if that just magically disappears for him going forward.
With that being said, things should get tougher once Strider takes the mound for his next start. The Giants are likely going to serve up a much more difficult challenge than the likes of the Diamondbacks, Athletics, Pirates and Nationals. Still, the Braves don’t need Strider to be dominating or lights-out at this particular moment; They just need him to be good enough to keep them in any given game and he’s been accomplishing that goal in his starts so far. I’m going to remind y’all again that the Braves had an absolutely terrible record in games that didn’t see Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright making the start. A lot of that was due to the revolving door of starters being unable to give the Braves much of anything in their appearances.
Things have changed with Spencer Strider’s entrance to the rotation so far. Strider’s done a pretty good job of fitting in and giving the Braves a chance to win the games that he’s been starting in so far. The exciting part about Strider is that since he’s still pretty young, there’s plenty of room for him to improve and get better as the season progresses. Assuming he stays healthy, it’s fun to think about the Braves suddenly going from having a massive hole in their rotation to having a pretty strong rotation to go with a bullpen that’s been doing a great job as well. There’s no telling how long this streak is going to last, but I really do feel like Spencer Strider is going to keep the good times going for as long as he wants.