Despite his sickly end to the 2022 season, the Atlanta Braves’ Max Fried was phenomenal en route to a career-best year in many respects.
The Atlanta Braves starting rotation had many surprise stories in 2022, ranging from the breakout of pitchers Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider all the way to the struggles of veteran Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson. One thing remained the same, though: the dominance of Braves ace Max Fried.
The only difference in Fried’s game was the level of dominance that he exhibited on a particularly consistent basis all year long. He posted a career-high in innings at 185.1 and managed to pair it with a career-best 5.0 fWAR, good enough for 4th in the National League among pitchers.
What made Max Fried so dominant for the Atlanta Braves this year?
If we take a deep dive into Fried’s FanGraphs page, it doesn’t take long for the eye-popping figures to emerge, especially when contrasted with the rest of his career. This season, Fried set career highs in crucial metrics like:
- BB/9 at 1.55 (2nd in NL)
- xERA at 2.85 (4th in NL)
- FIP at 2.70 (3rd in NL)
- xFIP at 3.09 (4th in NL)
- fWAR at 5.0 (4th in NL)
Even if you’re not a particular believer in the advanced metrics – which indicate that Fried was not only excellent in his fielding independent pitching but also not artificially inflated by good luck – the more standard statistics support his success as well.
His fastball velocity matched his career-high at 94 mph, yet he coupled that with the National League’s third-best home run to fly ball ratio at a meager 7.8%. His ERA was a career second-best and NL third-best 2.48, and his ability to strand runners on base was a career third-best 78.2%. On top of it all, many of the areas where Fried did not set a career-best figure were only behind his 2020 COVID-shortened season in which he threw 56 total innings.
When we’ve established that Fried was excellent at limiting the home run, stranding runners on base, not conceding runs, managing to not rely on good luck, and being more valuable than his league peers, it’s no wonder he was rewarded with an NL Cy Young finalist selection.
Coupled with his three defensive runs saved, three total stole bases conceded, and recent third-consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award victory, Max Fried had one of the very best seasons for a pitcher in recent Atlanta Braves history.
With Fried hitting arbitration this Winter, he will be receiving a well-deserved pay raise.
How did Max Fried’s 2022 season for the Atlanta Braves end?
For reasons likely to do with the illness that Fried acquired during the Atlanta Braves’ final series against the New York Mets, he was ineffective against the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS and was docked with a 10.80 ERA in only 3.1 playoff innings. If the Braves had gone farther though, Fried probably would have had quite a few chances to redeem himself.
Regardless, his season should not be defined by three innings against the eventual NL champions. Fried should hold his head high and will be ready to go out and emulate his previous success in 2023.
Could the emergence of Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider end up pushing Fried to further dominance a la Maddux – Glavine – Smoltz? Only time will tell, but further improvement from Fried at this point would surely only mean one thing: multiple Cy Young Awards.