Bradley’s Buzz: Talking pitchers - Spencer Strider, Ian Anderson and Thor

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Big game today. You knew that already. Come Saturday afternoon, one team will face elimination. The Braves finally announced their Game 3 starter today – Spencer Strider, who would be the National League rookie of the year if not for Michael Harris. Charlie Morton will work Game 4.

The Phillies are going with Aaron Nola today. He’s very good, if not quite Zack-Wheeler-good. Their Game 4 starter could be Noah Syndergaard, once the most imposing pitcher in the sport. That Thor isn’t this Thor. As a Met, Syndergaard topped 100 mph. Of his 16 pitches late in Game 2, the fastest was a 94.1 mph sinker.

Since Sept. 29, 2019, Syndergaard has made 26 big-league starts. His average fastball this season was 93.8 mph; his average slider was 84.8. In 2017, Thor threw those pitches at 98.3 and 92.5. Back then, his slider was faster than some pitchers’ fastball. But – with pitchers, this is always the “but” – he hurt his arm.

Early in the pandemic year 2020, he underwent Tommy John surgery. (This caused a fuss; with hospitals full, should elective surgery be performed?) The Angels signed him last winter for one year at $21 million. They traded him to Philadelphia in August.

The deal included Mickey Moniak, an outfielder Philly made the No. 1 overall draftee in 2017. Moniak’s OPS over 47 games with the Phillies was .386, which is terrible. The third pick in 2017 was Ian Anderson, who remains one of two starting pitchers – Don Larsen is the other – to exit a World Series game without yielding a hit.

On Aug. 7, the Braves demoted Anderson to Triple-A Gwinnett. His ERA was 5.00. Over the postseasons of 2020 and 2021, Anderson made eight starts. The Braves won seven, the exception being Game 7 against the Dodgers in the 2020 NLCS. He was 4-0 in playoff decisions; his ERA over those eight games was 1.26.

Anderson’s ERA in three Gwinnett starts was 5.80. The Braves placed him on the injured list with an oblique strain. Over the past two Octobers, he started either Game 2 or 3 in six different series. He was a key figure in the Braves’ playoff breakthroughs of 2020 and 2021. Now he’s an afterthought. (Like Mike Soroka, whose Game 3 start against Adam Wainwright in October 2019 remains his only postseason turn.)

Anderson was a major part of the Braves’ plans, and he might still be. But Kyle Wright, who’s 27 and was drafted No. 5 overall in 2017, won 21 games this season and bettered Zack Wheeler in a tremendous Game 2. Wright’s rise dovetailed with Anderson’s fall. So did the upward path of Spencer Strider, who’s a year younger than Anderson.

Label this entry, “Why Pitching is Weird, Parts 3,165 and 3,166.” Syndergaard was once considered a hotter commodity than Jacob deGrom. Thor and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, of whom you’ve heard, were acquired from Toronto in November 2012 for R.A. Dickey, coming off a Cy Young year. The Toronto general manager was Alex Anthopoulos.

Syndergaard and d’Arnaud comprised a stellar young battery when the Mets made the 2015 World Series. Now d’Arnaud is the bigger name – an All-Star catcher on the reigning World Series champs. And the hardest thrower among pitchers apt to start this weekend won’t be Syndergaard. It’ll be Strider.

To rewrite a famous Rod Stewart line: “Every pitcher tells a story, don’t it?”

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’d be obliged if you’d give it a try.

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