There have been several fantastic individual pitching displays in 2020, but none have been better than Max Fried, who has entered himself into the conversation of baseball’s best pitchers. This is a weird year, so it will be interesting to see how voters determine award winners — but as things stand now, over halfway through the season — nobody is more deserving of the NL MVP than Fried.
The 26-year-old southpaw has been electric and leads baseball in almost every pitching stat. His 1.35 ERA is the best in the majors, so is his ERA+ of 353, and he’s yet to allow a single home run in seven starts, which has led to a WAR of 2.5 — also the best in the majors. This tweet from a rising stat guru in the Atlanta sports world, Kevin Keneely, should give you a better idea of just how dominant Fried has been in 2020.
Max Fried leads the NL in:
WAR (2.4 bWAR) *all players*
Adj. ERA (355+)
Adj. Pitching Runs (15)
Adj. Pitching Wins (1.6)
Base-Out Runs Saved (15.70)
Situational Wins Saved (1.3)
Base-Out Wins Saved (1.7)
Assists as Pitcher (34) pic.twitter.com/qzxMlIKbNF
— Kevin Keneely (@KevinKeneely1) August 27, 2020
I’m not usually one that boasts pitchers into the MVP conversation. The Cy Young award exists for a reason. Position players that play every day rather than once every five days are typically significantly more valuable. However, I’m not sure how you can make that argument so far this season, considering how pathetic Atlanta’s rotation would be without Max Fried.
The Braves have managed to win every game Fried has pitched in (7-0). Fried himself has a 5-0 record to go along with his 1.35 ERA. Meanwhile, after Milone surrendered seven earned runs in just 2.1 innings, the rest of the Braves’ starters combined ERA is over seven. They are 1-10, with that one win coming last week in the form of a masterful performance by Ian Anderson.
So to answer the question: where would the Braves be without Max Fried? Probably at the bottom of the NL East. Instead, they have a comfortable three-game lead over the second-place Marlins and Phillies. I’m not sure you can say that about any other player in the National League.
Of course, all of this will likely sort itself out over the next few weeks. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for Fried to stay at this pace for the entire season. However, if he does, he shouldn’t just be the NL Cy Young; he should be the NL MVP.