Pitcher Spotlight: Chris Stratton’s 10 Strikeout Game

It looked grim for Chris Stratton as he entered his Sunday afternoon start against the Washington Nationals. He held a 5.11 ERA through 15 Triple-A starts in 2017 and had been nothing short of a disappointment in his first two starts in the majors, allowing nine walks and fanning just five en route to seven total earned runs. However, he shocked many with ten strikeouts and just six baserunners in 6.2 shutout innings and suddenly he’s an intriguing option on a barren waiver wire in fantasy leagues. Even though he faced a Nationals lineup that didn’t contain Bryce Harper or Daniel Murphy, performing at this level against any major league lineup is worth a deeper look.

I watched every pitch Stratton threw in his phenomenal performance in order to get a feel for how Stratton cruised through a respected MLB lineup. Let’s go through each of his four pitches from this and get a sense of who Stratton is while determining if he can give us near the same production in future outings.


Stratton’s fastball isn’t going to impress anyone with its velocity sitting around 91.5mph as a starter and minimal movement save for the occasional sinker. Without the flair of other heaters, Stratton relies heavily on hitting his spots with the pitch and he executed beautifully on Sunday, focusing mostly on jamming both left-handers and right-handers with the pitch to generate weak outs:

He could also turn to the pitch for occasional whiffs, either gassing it up to 93mph or turning to the sinker to dive into right-handers and create awkward swings:

Still, there were a fair amount of fastballs Stratton did get away with. This 1-0 pitch to Anthony Rendon was as meaty as they come and resulted in a lazy flyout to center:

These pitches were limited overall, but it’s possible he pitches the same and get punished a bit more often in future starts.

The reason we love high velocity pitchers is that it gives them a larger margin for error. Throwing the ball harder allows pitchers to get away with a missed location more often, while slower pitches need to rely more on sequencing and location to be successful. Stratton doesn’t come with the same high-octane luxury as other arms, making his fastball command a critical part of his success in each start. It was as good as we could we ever hope for against the Nationals – even with the unavoidable sprinkle of mistakes – though it’s too small of sample to assume it will always be at this level. When his command isn’t there, it will be a lot tougher for Stratton to get through innings unscathed, the question is how often this will be the case.


The best pitch in Stratton’s arsenal is easily his Curveball. The pitch has earned a 19.2% whiff rate in the 92 thrown in his major league career, rendering just two hits and tricked batters to chase it off the plate 40.9% of the time. Early in the game, it became clear that Stratton loves the pitch and will use it constantly as his putaway offering. Take for example the first strikeout of his afternoon that came via two nasty curveballs to Adrian Sanchez:

He also used the pitch to induce an awkward swing from Anthony Rendon in a 1-1 count:

And was able to escape a 2-1 count with a curveball that led to a weak inning-ending groundout:

It’s a great breaking ball that the Nationals hitters couldn’t square up easily. When he’s able to locate with his fastball, Stratton is free to earn a strike with his curveball, as batters have a hard time adjusting to its massive drop and change in velocity.

The one problem I had with the pitch is that he didn’t use it enough. Its usage rate was under 20% thrown in the game as he turned to his slider and changeup during the second and third times through the lineup, two pitches that were vastly inferior to Stratton’s big hook. I hope he can take the “Lance McCullers Jr. approach” in throwing his best pitch more often in future starts.


Through the second time of the order, Stratton moved from a fastball/curveball approach to replacing his deuce with a changeup/slider mix. It’s very common for pitchers to alter their secondary pitches when facing batters for a second time, though I wonder if Stratton would be better off throwing more curveballs during this transition as it’s a much better option than his changeup and slider. He didn’t impress much with his slow ball, with a good amount looking like this 1-0 offering that was slapped to right for a single:

This is far from the pitch that you’d feel confident throwing often if you were Stratton, making it no surprise he only featured 12 changeups across his 109 pitches. However, there were two changeups in particular that were a cut above the rest, one to Adam Lind and the other to Wilmer Difo:

Stratton uses his changeup to left-handers, sliders to right-handers – a standard approach – and these two changeups were exactly what they should be to left-handers, fading away and right off the outside corner. He didn’t get the swing from Lind, but got it from Difo and it was well deserved. Unfortunately there were the only two well executed changeups out of the twelve thrown, and I’m skeptical he can do this consistently as he found a rhythm in the fourth that was lost otherwise.


The fourth pitch in Stratton’s arsenal is a slider that still needs a bit of polish. There is upside tucked away in Stratton’s slide piece, though its inconsistency will be a common problem. There are moments when it featured a ton of movement and was placed it the perfect spot for a big strikeout:

And other times it floated in the zone, resulting in a base hit:

You don’t need me to tell you that this pitch to Brian Goodwin was a bad one, though when compared to the fantastic offering to Difo, it’s disappointing. Stratton treated it like a gamble pitch in this start, turning to it just 10 times in total, though I can see an outing where he gets a good feel for it early and features the pitch often. With the question marks that hover over his changeup, I wouldn’t be surprised for Stratton’s slider to become the stronger number three pitch over time.


We can’t say just yet if this start was a fluke or not. What we can say is that Stratton didn’t get overly lucky to get these results, as his fastball command was on point with a curveball that induced plenty of bad swings. His slider and change hint at upside, though it would be asking a lot for Stratton to touch his ceiling with at least three of his pitches all working on a given night.

Nevertheless, even if he doesn’t pitch at his best with his third and fourth options. Stratton should be heavily considered for your fantasy league based on his one-two combo. Assuming Stratton stays in the Giants’ rotation, he has a considerably easy schedule ahead – Phillies, Brewers, Padres, and Cardinals – making him a solid add in 12-teamers and a worthy gamble as we wait-and-see if his command will show up moving forward.


Nick Pollack is the founder of PitcherList.com and has written for Washington Post, Fantasy Pros, and CBS Sports. He can be found making an excessive amount of GIFs on twitter at @PitcherList.

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baltic wolfmember
6 years ago

I added him in a 16 team pts. league for $7. I’m in the first week of a two playoff matchup. I really had no choice because Paxton is out and I’ve finally decided to cut Cotton loose. And I checked his schedule too; not too difficult, as you have already pointed out.
I couldn’t watch Stratton’s first start b/c I have mlb.tv and am too close to D.C. (and Baltimore too) to be able to watch either team.
But I employed my younger brother—a Nats fan—to act as a scout for me and he was impressed by Stratton. OTOH, he also recommended that I pick up Treinen (said he had good stuff except when pressured by closing situations) and we all know what happened last night, though he came away with the W.