With the season creeping up on us, it’s time for my annual Braves bold predictions. This is the second edition of the series. If you missed the first, follow the link below.
Spencer Strider wins the NL Cy Young
There was a point early last year when I watched Strider and thought, “this guy reminds me of Jacob deGrom.” I thought I was crazy, and I held my tongue for a while, but after watching him for an entire season, I no longer think it is so far-fetched. As far as dominance, I think deGrom and Strider are at the top of the game today.
Strider put together one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a rookie. He struck out over 35% of the batters he faced, becoming the fastest pitcher ever to 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson‘s record. He also became the first pitcher in history to strike out 200 batters without allowing 100 hits in a season.
Strider ended the season with an eye-popping 2.67 ERA, but his 1.81 FIP suggests he was actually quite unlucky in the grand scheme of things. Had he not begun the year in the bullpen, he would have had a real chance at challenging Sandy Alcantara for the NL Cy Young. This year, I think he gets it done.
What’s so impressive about Strider beyond his strikeout ability is his home run prevention. Many times with power pitchers, when they get hit, they get hit hard. Strider only surrendered 0.48 homers per nine innings. That’s probably unsustainable, but if he can continue to keep the ball in the yard, it’s going to be difficult for opponents to push runners across the plate because of his ability to strike batters out.
The NL Cy Young race is poised to be a wild one in 2023. Alcantara won it last year and is as talented as any pitcher in the majors. Justin Verlander won it in the AL, and he’s now with the Mets, who also feature Max Scherzer. If he’s healthy, he’s sure to be in the mix. With that being said, I haven’t felt this confident in a Braves pitcher since Greg Maddux was toeing the rubber with a tomahawk across his chest. Strider isn’t just going to establish himself as the best pitcher on the Braves staff (sorry, Max Fried); he’s going to establish himself as the best pitcher in the National League for years to come.
Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire