Spencer Strider’s whiffs-versus-walks; Travis d’Arnaud’s June binge
Max Fried did a great job adapting to a patient Giants lineup, upping his zone rate and four-seam fastball usage enough to dominate for seven-plus innings. Can Spencer Strider do the same?
Fried passed, can Strider?
Max Fried has gotten by on low zone rates this season, but adjusted when needed. Spencer Strider may face a tougher test, as his one bugbear so far this season has been walks. In some ways, the walks haven’t really burned him given his gaudy strikeout rates, but the Giants swing so infrequently that pounding the zone grows in importance when facing them.
On the flip side, the Giants are not a great contact team — they’re like the Braves in the sense of trading contact for power, they’re just a lot more selective as to when they try to trade. Speculatively, this suggests the matchup may go one of two ways: Strider gets the whiffs he needs despite walk-induced traffic and thrives… or the walks combine with ill-timed contact to overpower him.
The Giants mix-and-match a ton, but Strider currently has essentially the same 2.60 xFIP against both lefties and righties, so I’m not sure this will be a hinge point. But watch his zone rate, the walks (or lack thereof), and the whiffs (or lack thereof) if and when the walks start to creep up.
d’Arnaud’s offensive binge
It’s always a little risky putting a Braves catcher blurb here, since who knows if he’ll be starting about 10 hours after I write these? In any case, let’s give a shoutout to Travis d’Arnaud’s awesome offense in June. With a homer off Logan Webb last night, d’Arnaud has homered in four of his five games — it’s not the first time he’s had four homers in five games because three-homer games help immensely with that, but it is the first time he’s homered in four of five. His June wRC+ is up above 200, and it’s only partly a mirage, as his monthly xwOBA is above .400 as well.
d’Arnaud’s Savant page for 2022 so far is… interesting.
Leaving the worst walk rate aside, chases not translating to whiffs, not translating as much to strikeouts, with the pretty-bad K/BB ratio not translating to xwOBA despite middling-to-worse exit velocity and hard-hit rate numbers is… interesting. The “answer” seems to be an elevated barrel rate, i.e., most balls are not hard-hit, but when they are they’re also hit at good angles.
Not having that walk rate backstop makes batting lines very dependent on BABIP and HR/FB to provide value… but d’Arnaud is depending on those and doing just fine, for now, mostly by raking fastballs to the tune of a .400ish xwOBA. That’s a similar approach some of his surprising compatriots (William Contreras, Orlando Arcia) have taken, and the sustainability of it is something interesting to watch for him and other parts of the team going forward.