Home Featured Spencer Strider’s New Curveball Could Lead To Frightening Results In 2024

Spencer Strider’s New Curveball Could Lead To Frightening Results In 2024

Spencer Strider’s New Curveball Could Lead To Frightening Results In 2024

Opening Day 2022 saw a meteor strike baseball. Spencer Strider, who was in the bullpen that evening against the Reds, pitched two perfect innings and struck out five.

The Clemson 2020 4th-rounder had debuted the previous season, but despite the fact that he pitched at five levels and rose from Low-A all the way to the majors during the season in question, many people still missed the mustachioed pitching machine.

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While he began breaking Stuff+ models right away, Strider’s ascension to stardom didn’t happen overnight. He struggled in his first few appearances of 2022. After a dominating run in May, he was able to work his way back into the rotation.

Strider’s rookie year was historically great. He ranked third in the history of pitchers who threw at least 130 innings during a season.

The walking percentage, which was the main concern early on, has improved throughout the year.

Strider did this while throwing just two pitches—his fastball and slider—over 95% of the time. Histories have shown that starters need at least three pitches to consistently change the lineup. The question was, would Strider be able to replicate his success for an entire season?

Historical Great (In Some Aspects)

The race for the 2023 National League Cy Young Award was not just about Blake Snell. What is the best way to get in touch with you? Voters valued a pitcher based on who had the best season.

The chart below shows the six top vote-getters, who are also the NL fWAR Leaders.

More stats could’ve been included to paint a fuller picture of the award race, but keeping things tight also has its benefits.

It’s interesting to see how statistically different each pitcher was from the others. We didn’t necessarily have a situation where one hurler was so clearly above his peers.

What is your highest value? Snell is your pick, and you’re backed by bWAR. What about walk-avoidance and strikeouts? Strider was the clear winner in this category. Wheeler had the edge according to fWAR, which correlates with strikeouts, walks, and homers, while viewing Snell’s case as the weakest of the bunch. Webb has a similar bWAR to Snell, but he walks fewer batters. His ERA was solid, but not as shiny as Snell’s.

When did Cy become ERA award? As Eno Sarris noted in September, ERA isn’t just “the pitcher’s results.” It’s “the results of the pitcher and defense combined.” (and even the ballpark, too!) Of course, the Cy shouldn’t be the “alphabet award” either, as someone called it in my “X” mentions as a rebuttal to my late-season case for Strider to win (before it became clear that it would be Snell).

It’s true that the alphabet award is an absurd name for a pitcher who has a high K%, SwStr% or FIP. In his case, Strider wasn’t Results are what you want. though.

While ERA isn’t as much of a pure results stat as many want to believe, one can’t deny Strider’s 3.86 mark was a bummer.

His alphabet stats also confused me.

Strider didn’t just post good underlying metrics last season. He was historically dominant.

His strikeout rate ranked fourth in all of history.

Fangraphs data dating back to 2002 shows that his swinging strikes rate was the highest ever.

So why wasn’t his ERA better?

Reasons for concern

Having already mentioned how defense could contribute to a pitcher’s ERA, it’s worth noting the Braves’ ranks from last season:

  • DRS: 15th in a 30-team field
  • UZR: 27th
  • OAA: 22nd

When using Statcast data to determine the defense’s performance behind a pitcher while he was on the mound, Strider grades out as exactly neutral.

So let’s put that aside. If anything, we can say that Atlanta’s defense probably wasn’t You can help by contacting us. Last year.

Strider got unlucky, or was it just a coincidence? The ERA estimators for Strider seem to agree.

Strider, according to many metrics, was either a very good pitcher or historically excellent last season. However, his ERA underperformed.

His BABIP of.316 was high, but not fatal. And his left-on base rate of 70.3% was low, but not dramatically so.

His HR/9 was abnormal compared to other aces, but there isn’t one stat to point to and say, “This is the reason.”

When you dig deeper into his homer numbers, it turns out that 10 of the 22 were hit with a man on base. Strider’s batting average was low the third time he went through the order. However, his slugging improved and 10 of the 22 homers he allowed were in this situation.

It felt like this while watching him in 2023—dominance for most of his start before a late homer was given up with men on base.

So that’s it. Strider has a minimum of a mid-3s ERA if he continues to do everything as he did last year. Based on how things went in 2023, there’s some hope that he’ll run hot in any upcoming season. And that’s that.

(Sudden record scratch noise)

A New Hope

Here’s the thing—Strider isn’t just running it back. He’s now throwing a curveball.

Lance Brozdowski noted recently in his Substack that the sample size is small but there are reasons to believe that his new pitch is likely to be well received.

We asked Brozdowski to elaborate on how Strider’s curve could specifically help against lefties:

“As far as how the curve would help versus lefties, the downward action of curves, especially at reasonable velocities, is hard for lefties to do damage on from righthanded pitchers. This is partially why sweepers perform poorly from righties to lefties—they lack that drop. So the Strider curve, based on the small-sample specs we have, should be at least an average pitch per stuff models.”

He added later:

“The sneaky part of the shape of his curve is that it has a lot of horizontal movement or sweep. So I think there’s a chance he uses this more versus righthanded hitters than we think.”

We still don’t know if Strider can reliably throw his curve at good locations throughout an entire season, but it’s easy to see how much more upside Strider has if he can.

There’s an argument to be made that natural regression could lead to a unanimous Cy Young-type season from Strider in 2024. The ceiling and floor of Strider’s career can be raised by a new curveball that would give him options in later starts after he allowed all those homers.

Strider won 20 games and totaled 281 strikes by throwing his slider and fastball 92.7% of the time.

He might also have a weapon that is above average.

There’s no ceiling on his ability to lap his peers statistically this season.

The post Spencer Strider’s New Curveball Could Lead To Frightening Results In 2024 appeared first on College Baseball, MLB Draft, Prospects – Baseball America.

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