Atlanta Braves are Seeing the Best Yet of Max Fried

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried got off to a slow start, but he's been pitching better than ever as of late.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried pitches against the Detroit Tigers
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried pitches against the Detroit Tigers / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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To say Atlanta Braves starter Max Fried had a shaky start to the season could be considered an understatement. His first four starts were rocky enough that he gave up three earned runs in five innings (which equates to a 5.40 ERA) one time and his ERA decreased by nearly a run. 

The Braves had the run support to win every game, but it looked like they might have a problem on their hands. They had already been without him for a good chunk of 2023, and then they potentially had to worry about him struggling. 

Fortunately for the Braves, manager Brian Snitker isn't the knee-jerk type. Fried didn’t just settle back into a groove. We might be witnessing the best version of the 30-year-old lefty to date.   

On April 23, Fried tossed a complete game shutout against the Miami Marlins and never looked back. Including this shutout, Fried has allowed one run or fewer in six of his last eight appearances - translating to a 2.00 ERA in that span. 

According to Statmuse, in his last 10 starts, Fried also has a 0.86 WHIP, a 0.53 HR/9 and has held opposing hitters to a .170 average and .465 OPS. If he keeps this up, he is in for several career-best stats.  

More efficiency and less base runners has meant more innings; he’s been pitching deeper into games. 

Fried has had six outings in his last 10 starts where he’s pitched at least seven innings, including a second complete game on May 22. 

Fried sees gratification in being able to pitch deep into games. 

“I pride myself on going deep into games,” Fried said following his second complete game. “The nights when you’re efficient and you’re not wasting pitches, it’s more just about putting your foot on the gas pedal and just keep it going, rather than thinking about it or waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

The fresher the Braves can keep the bullpen the better, and he’s giving Snitker few reasons to take the ball out of his hand as of late. 

Another Major Test Ahead

Fried is scheduled to make his next start on Sunday in the Bronx against the New York Yankees. With the second-best OPS in MLB (.765), Fried will be given his toughest test yet. The precedent is not on his side. His two weaker outings since April 23 have been against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles - the two other top-three offenses this season. 

However, should he get past the Yankees, it can be seen as a sign that he’s starting to figure out tougher opponents and will have done it in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. Good news for a team with playoff aspirations.

It’s no small feat. 

Those are the types of outings that build a player’s case for all-star appearances and put him in contention for the Cy Young Award.

Harrison Smajovits