Biggest takeaway from Opening Day: The Spencer Strider curveball is legit

MLB: JUN 14 Braves at Tigers

The Braves routed the Phillies 9-3 on Opening Day behind a stellar performance from their bullpen and a late rally from their historic offense from a year ago.

However, the story of the first five innings was the battle on the mound. Zack Wheeler was unhittable for the Phillies, going six strong without allowing a run, and for four innings, Spencer Strider matched him, striking out seven without allowing a run. However, the bottom of the Philadelphia order was finally able to get to him in the fifth, as Brandon Marsh turned around a 96 MPH fastball over the middle of the plate for a two-run homer.

If you ask Spencer Strider, he’ll tell you he didn’t have his best stuff, and he didn’t. Five innings of two-run ball with eight punchouts is nothing to scoff at, but we’re talking about arguably the best pitcher on the planet. He knows he can be better, and he’s going to be as the season continues. However, there’s one aspect of Strider’s first Opening Day start that must be discussed.

This curveball is legit.

The curveball that Spencer Strider added to his repertoire this offseason was the talk of the town throughout Spring Training. It was almost annoying how much it was brought up every time he toed the rubber, but it makes a lot more sense seeing it in live action in a game that means something, and that’s important.

Spring Training is a time for players, especially pitchers, to try different things. You’ll see pitchers working on secondary offerings that they’ll rarely use once April arrives. Coming into Opening Day, I was a bit skeptical of how often we’d actually see the curveball in a real game, and to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

Per FanGraphs, Spencer Strider turned to his curveball 11.1% of the time in his first start, a pitch that averaged 81.1 MPH, more than five MPH slower than his slider and more than 16 MPH slower than his heater. The offering has 50+ inches of break and led to a lot of swings like this.

Strider’s curveball had a Whiff% of 67% in his first start. It’s a small sample size, but this is no fluke. He has a legit third offering, and to left-handed batters, it’s four pitches, as he’ll incorporate a changeup from time to time.

Like all the greats before him, Spencer Strider isn’t one to be satisfied with his performance. He could be an All-Star every season just by using his fastball/slider combination, but he’s trying to take it to the next level, and this curveball very well may do the trick. Opening Day was not as perfect as he would have liked, but everyone should be eager to see what’s to come with this new pitch.

Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire


Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: