Braves rotation beginning to flex its muscles

Braves Spencer Strider revenge

To begin the season, the Braves rotation was a cause for concern to some, primarily because of all of the injuries, which forced Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd to make their major-league debuts way sooner than anticipated. With those guys now replaced by Max Fried and Kyle Wright, this unit looks like the most complete in all of baseball.

Let’s begin with this year’s candidate for the most improved player award based on the early season results. Bryce Elder was optioned to Gwinnett during Spring Training. It was a move that surprised many, but it hasn’t stopped him from establishing himself as a pivotal cog in the machine.

In three of Elder’s first four starts, he’s yet to allow an earned run and gone at least six innings. He boasts a 1.14 ERA, 2.52 FIP, and leads all of baseball with an ERA+ of 390, which is 390% above league average. Those numbers obviously are not sustainable, but it’s also fair to say we may have all underestimated the ceiling of the 23-year-old righty out of the University of Texas.

Having Elder along with Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright rounding out the rotation is almost unfair. Morton is coming off a down year for his standards in 2022, but the early returns in 2023 have been promising. He owns a 3.22 ERA over his first four starts and has a chance to improve upon those numbers tonight against the Marlins.

Then there are the guys at the top — Max Fried and Spencer Strider. Coming into the season, I ranked the top 10 pitching duos in baseball, placing the Braves pair of aces at #4 on the list. The only duos I had ahead of them were Justin Verlander/Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole/Carlos Rodon, and Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff. Now, I realize I made a grave mistake.

When healthy, I’m not sure there’s a better one-two punch than Max Fried and Spencer Strider. Fried dealt with a minor hamstring injury during his first start, forcing him to the IL, but since his return, he’s looked like the best version of himself. I’m constantly amazed by the way he is better with each passing season. After finishing second in the NL Cy Young race, he could very well take home the award in 2023… if Spencer Strider doesn’t have anything to say about it.

Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year is proving his dominance was no fluke. He currently boasts a 1.80 ERA, has the most strikeouts of any pitcher in the league, and has the highest strikeout rate. Strider is almost unhittable, and I’m not even sure he’s at his best right now. His velocity is slightly down, and even though it hasn’t affected the results, I do think we could see him throwing 100 MPH with more regularity as we get deeper into the season.

From top to bottom, the Braves don’t appear to have any holes in their rotation, and this group could get even deeper with the return of Mike Soroka looming, who has been lights out in three starts for the Gwinnett Stripers.

Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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