Roansy in the middle; Strider’s walkathon
If you like pitching matchups with intrigue, and the possibility that winning streaks could be extended to nine games, you’ll probably love tonight’s game. If you are tuning in, keep an eye on these things.
Roansy(‘s fastball) in the middle
Roansy Contreras basically has the “young successful starter kit” of an arsenal right now. He has a hard, high-spin, “rising” four-seamer, a slider whose movement is primarily vertical, and a curveball with two-plane movement and enough break to be worthwhile. The slider command is on point and he hammers the low, gloveside corner with it against both lefties and righties. The curveball location is… enigmatic, but it’s his third pitch. The fastball, though, is interesting.
Generally, Contreras wears out the high, gloveside corner with the pitch. This gives him a simple pitching syllogism: fastball high, slider low, both away from righties and in on lefties. Yet, he misses with his fastball down the middle a fair bit:
Contreras has made six outings so far (three in relief, three starts), and in all but his 2022 debut, there have been a fair bit of middle-middle fastballs. (In his most recent outing, the fastball went even lower, but it didn’t hurt him much because that slider exists.) His “meatball” rate is league average-y, and given how he spots his slider, that’s pretty much all fastball.
So, watch to see if this happens again. But, more importantly, watch to see if the Braves tee off on it. Because if they don’t… there’s not much else to take advantage of there. If they don’t pulverize the fastball misses, it could be a long first half of the game, getting carved up by sliders.
Strider’s walks — after the first nine
Before moving into the rotation, Strider had a garish 11.6 percent walk rate as a reliever… which was more than tolerable because he was striking out nearly 40 percent of batters. (Well, maybe not tolerable for one Mr. Manfred, given that that meant that half of his plate appearances ended without a ball in play.) What’s interesting is that even in Strider’s longer relief outings, where he faced the lineup multiple times, this didn’t change much:
- Strider, reliever, first time through the order: 74 batters, 39.2 percent strikeout rate, 12.2 percent walk rate
- Strider, reliever, second time through the order: 21 batters, 38.1 percent strikeout rate, 9.5 percent walk rate
Yet, in his two games as a starter, things are somewhat different:
- Strider, starter, first time through the order: 18 batters, 38.9 percent strikeout rate, 11.1 percent walk rate (this looks identical to his reliever numbers, pretty much)
- Strider, starter, second time through the order: 18 batters, 27.8 percent strikeout rate, 22.2 percent walk rate (this looks like woof)
Barring something wild, Strider is probably going to get at least 18 batters tonight, so keep an eye on this too. It’s not clear why this is happening, and there may not be a reason given that tonight will be just his third start.
The Pirates actually walk a lot considering who they have on their roster — Max Fried walked none yesterday, but he’s Max Fried — they’re 11th in batter walk rate so far this season. That could cause serious issues for Strider unless he’s figured something out. Maybe he can just channel whatever he was doing as a reliever.