Max Fried finished second in the NL Cy Young race yesterday behind Sandy Alcantara, who won the award unanimously. It was a nice recognition for the Braves pitcher, who has become arguably the best left-handed starter in the game today. His consistency and competitiveness are unmatched. Unfortunately, the Max Fried we’ve seen over the last 3-4 seasons is not the guy who showed up in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Phillies.
Fried surrendered four earned runs in just 3.1 innings, as Philadelphia opened up the series with a critical Game 1 victory on the road. We all know what happened after that, but I’ve said on many occasions that the series would have been much different had the Braves two aces been healthy. Spencer Strider was coming off an oblique injury, something that affected him considerably after the first couple of innings, and Max Fried had been battling the flu for weeks. Going into the series, it was unclear how severe the illness was, but according to Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Fried never got healthy and entered his Game 1 start against the Phillies down 15 pounds.
"He, for me, has been one of the best pitchers in the American and National League over the last four years."
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 17, 2022
This explains why Fried’s velocity was down and a myriad of other problems. Some might say he shouldn’t have started, but you go try and take the ball away from Fried in that scenario. It didn’t matter how poorly he was feeling; unless his arm was about to fall off, he was going to start that game.
At the end of the day, the Phillies outplayed the Braves in the NLDS. They deserved to advance, but who knows how things would have played out if Fried and Strider were 100% healthy. I imagine we would be talking about back-to-back National League Champions… at the very least.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire