Spencer Strider took another significant step forward while turning in his first full season in the majors in 2023. He ascended to the top of the Atlanta Braves’ rotation, broke John Smoltz’s record for strikeouts in a season, and tossed a career-high 186 2⁄3 innings. However, it’s proven difficult to get Strider to focus on individual accomplishments, especially when his team fell far short of expectations. Strider spoke Saturday at BravesFest and discussed his preparation for the season and the adjustments he wants to see from himself and his teammates in order to find success again in the postseason.
“Yeah, it’s the best. It makes it feel like the offseason never happened and then it’s been three years at the same time,” Strider answered when asked about how good it is to see everyone again. “I’ve been here working out. A couple guys have. It’s been nice to kind of stay in the routine, but yeah, great to see everybody.”
Going into last season’s Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, no one could have predicted that Atlanta would struggle offensively the way they did. Strider pitched well in Game 1 and Game 4, allowing a combined four earned runs to go along with 15 strikeouts in 12 2⁄3 innings. He received one run of support, losing 3-0 and 3-1.
“That’s all I’ve thought about. That’s the conversation that we’ve had as a team,” Strider said. “Whether it’s in groups or one on one throughout the offseason, it’s just ‘How do we put ourselves in a position to have a better outcome in the postseason?’ Not to say we have the regular season down, I’m certainly not insinuating that. Never know what’s gonna happen. But we gotta make the most of everything that happens throughout the regular season so that we’re in the best position possible in the postseason. I think that last year was a big learning experience, like you said, for me and just for everybody.”
Saying that is one thing, but actually executing changes is another. For Strider, he believes that the Braves have to set the bar as high as possible and that anything less than a World Series win should be viewed as a disappointment.
“Absolutely, I think rhetoric is one, especially when we clinched so early in September,” Strider said about specific ideas he and his teammates have discussed. “I think just changing the way we talk and the goals we set, what we verbalize into existence. That’s gonna be important for us. I think that there should be no acceptance of anything less than winning a World Series in this organization. I said it a little bit ago. I believe it. I’m biased, but this is the most talented team in baseball. We need to set our bar as high as possible, anything less than that is an underachievement for us.
“I think there’s obviously a lot of noise and a lot going on in the postseason that’s not essential to performing on the field,” Strider added. “We dealt with that a little bit last year, and it was a learning experience. The best thing about failure is at least it gives you the opportunity to improve. There’s no guarantee of anything happening this year, we only have the opportunity. But like I said, we’ve got everything we need to achieve what we want to.”
Alex Anthopoulos made some meaningful moves this offseason. He restocked the bullpen with power arms, brought in former top prospect Jarred Kelenic to play left field, and acquired veteran left-hander Chris Sale from the Red Sox to help bolster the rotation. Strider said that he thought all of the new additions could have a big impact and wonders why some people continue to question Anthopoulos.
“I think that anybody that questions his rationale behind things is at this point is not paying great attention and I have full trust in everything he does,” Strider said of Anthopoulos. “When I saw Chris Sale pop up on my phone and we acquired him, I jumped up. That’s a guy I greatly admired, to say the least, growing up. The little bit of communication I’ve had with him and meeting him this weekend has been just confirmation of everything I thought he was. At the very least, that guy wants to win more than he wants to do anything and that’s what matters most to me.”
Strider makes it clear. While he may continue to wreak havoc on franchise record books, winning a championship is the ultimate goal. In that vein, it feels like he is cut from the same cloth as Sale. Strider thinks that all of the pieces are in place, they just need to go out and execute.
“That’s something that’s difficult to achieve, and I have nothing to do with it. I give that credit to Alex and to Snit and the coaching staff that have built that, player development, the ownership,” Strider said of the Braves’ championship energy. “Everybody that’s had a hand in creating this environment, and it’s all the more reason why I think that a World Series trophy is the ultimate goal for us, and that’s the bar.”
“The sky is truly the limit for us,” Strider added. “All the things we were able to do in the regular season last year are pretty special. I think we’d gladly trade some of it for a World Series, but the pieces are there, one hundred percent, to maximize what we can do in that short sample size of the postseason. Starting day one of Spring Training, that’s gonna be the goal. Putting ourselves in a position every single day to be successful in that arena.”