The last time I wrote about Spencer Strider, I was the one saying that the Braves would surely consider limiting the rookie right-hander’s innings after the All-Star Break.
It was—and still is—a sensible argument, and one that ultimately did come up at interview after interview with both Strider and Brian Snitker for weeks following the break. Snitker even seemed to hint at the fact that the Braves may have been treating Strider with a bit of caution recently during his postgame media session on Thursday.
"When he came in, he reminded me of Kimbrel. ... Now he's looking more like Tom Seaver."— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) September 2, 2022
Braves manager Brian Snitker on Spencer Strider pic.twitter.com/oKC2faAB8m
Strider, of course, has consistently thanked everyone for their concern and insisted that he will be just fine with a typical starter workload.
And fine he has been. More than that, actually, so I am absolutely thrilled to have been wrong so far.
Thursday’s franchise-record 16 strikeout performance was just another example of his dominance and composure beyond his rookie years. Truly, with as dynamic as Strider has been, the showing almost felt expected. I don’t need to regurgitate the stats you’ve surely seen—and if you need a refresher, check out this piece from yesterday.
I was lucky enough to have been at Thursday’s game in person, so I was as blissfully unaware in section 222 as Strider on the field that he was approaching John Smoltz’s record. To be honest, after watching Max Fried throw not one but two Madduxes last season, I was actively tracking the rookie’s pitch count as the innings went on and hoping we might get to see that kind of history made.
After the handful of baserunners in the eighth inning made it clear that a Maddux was out of reach, I was happy to settle with seeing Strider reach a new career high in strikeouts, and it was only as I watched him work his way through the high fives in the dugout via the Jumbotron that I realized what had happened.
One of the more underrated things about this year’s Atlanta team that I’ve only seen fleetingly mentioned on social media outlets is that they have a tendency to publicly celebrate each other’s accomplishments—something I feel has to be unique in the professional sport space, in the best way possible.
Thursday was no different. You saw it in the way that each teammate wanted to give their own congratulations to Strider in the dugout and break the news of the record to him. You see it in the way they give thoughtful answers when asked—and, often unprompted as well—about their teammates during interviews. And you see it in the way that you can go to any given player’s Twitter or Instagram account, and they’re actively sharing posts about each other’s accomplishments, both on and off the field. Nearly every Instagram story I clicked through last night was a reshare of one 16 strikeout graphic or another.
Wow!!! That was one of the most impressive outings I’ve ever seen.— Luke Jackson (@YaBoy77) September 2, 2022
It seems that last year’s “little bit of love” still lingers.
I ended my last commentary on Strider with this note: however he’s used, Strider is a special talent, and I will not be taking a single 100+ MPH pitch for granted. The sentiment still stands, and I know his teammates feel the same way.