Spencer Strider is making a case as the Braves ace, the bullpen is not an option

Braves Strider

The Braves absolutely wallopped the Phillies last night at Truist Park behind an offensive onslaught and a gem from Spencer Strider. Atlanta’s offense produced 13 runs on 14 hits, including a fifth frame in which the club scored six two-out runs. The Braves went 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position, had four extra-base hits, and had three players total three hits — Dansby Swanson, Eddie Rosario, and Marcell Ozuna. But the star of the win was Strider, who is making a strong case as rotation’s ace.

Strider struck out a career-high 13 batters coming off an NL Rookie of the Month award in what had to be one of the most impressive starts of his career. He allowed one run on three hits in 6.2 innings while issuing only one walk — marking the fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the season.

During July, Atlanta’s Huckleberry posted a 2.70 ERA with 41 strikeouts over 26.2 innings pitched. And his 2.14 FIP even suggests he’s been a bit unlucky. Strider also only allowed a minuscule .158 average against opposing batters. The rookie has established himself as the team’s second ace behind Max Fried and might even challenge him for the best starter in the rotation sooner rather than later.

On the season, Strider holds a 2.79 ERA over 23 games, including 12 starts after moving out of the bullpen. He’s struck out 133 hitters against 32 walks across 87 innings, holding opponents to a .174 average in that time. To put those punch outs into perspective, Strider has the highest SO/9 (13.8) by a rookie in MLB history. He’s elite. Even before his latest outing, Strider was the clear favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Strider has solidified himself as the rotation’s ace behind Max Fried, showing he can handle the duties of a full-time starter despite never pitching this many innings in his entire career. The Braves’ Huckleberry ranks first among all rookie pitchers in bWAR and has pitched 20 fewer innings than the second-place Joe Ryan.

Much has been made about Strider’s workload and that a move back to the bullpen could be in the cards. Well, that’s why Braves Country doesn’t make the decisions because that isn’t going to happen, and it’s laughable that someone would even suggest it. Strider pitched 63 innings in college and 94 in 2021 and is already at 87 innings right now, but Huckleberry isn’t concerned one bit.

“I’m very grateful for the concern over my energy level and arm; it seems to be expressed by everybody,” Strider said, sarcastically. “I’m in pretty good shape. I don’t know what the concern is. I’m a pitcher. Everyone seems concerned about my innings. If everyone is such an expert on innings increases, then I’m happy to take your advice. Let’s hear it.”

Alex Anthopoulos made an appearance in the booth during last night’s matchup, where he confirmed the plan is to keep Strider in the rotation. He’s exponentially more valuable as a starter than coming out of the bullpen, and Braves fans need to get that notion out of their heads. Max Fried will get the nod in any Game 1 scenario, but Strider is making a strong case as the team’s ace. There’s no doubt he’ll be on the bump for any Game 2’s in the postseason.

John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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