There are a lot of elite rotations around the league, but I didn’t think the Braves group was getting enough credit coming into the season.
This is a unit that features last year’s runner up in the NL Cy Young race in Max Fried, a 21-game winner and another top-ten finisher in the 2022 NL Cy Young voting in Kyle Wright, and arguably the most dominant pitcher on the planet in Spencer Strider. Those three alone could form a formidable rotation, but the Braves also feature Charlie Morton, who is off to a much more promising start in 2023, and Bryce Elder, who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball through six starts, despite not even beginning the season on the Opening Day roster.
Through the first 30 games, the Braves starters own the league’s best ERA (3.14). They rank fourth in Major League Baseball in fWAR, fourth in FIP, fifth in K/9, and seventh in xFIP. This might just be the best rotation in baseball, and two of their top starters — Kyle Wright and Max Fried — each have spent stints on the IL.
Bryce Elder may not be able to sustain a 1.75 ERA for the entire season. His advanced metrics suggest severe regression is in line, but he’s been one of those pitchers that seem to consistently out-pitch those metrics. Analytics are fun, but they don’t always tell the full story.
Elder now has 15 big-league starts under his belt and owns a 2.60 ERA. He’s a young man that just knows how to get guys out, and he doesn’t hurt himself by giving up free passes. That goes a long way in this league. I’m not saying he’ll ever be a Cy Young candidate, but he does have a chance to be one of the best fifth starters in baseball, and that’s all the Braves are asking of him because the rest of their rotation is elite.
Morton may not be what he once was, but he still has the stuff to generate a ton of whiffs. As long as he is able to keep the ball in the yard, he’ll be well worth the $20 million extension the Braves handed him last year.
Wright’s really yet to even get his feet wet after missing all of Spring Training, which is a testament to the depth of this rotation. He’s a 21-game winner that was a top-20 pitcher in baseball a year ago, and he’s just starting to look like himself again. That’s a scary thought, considering the Braves two horses at the front of their rotation might be the best one-two punch in baseball.
It’s not ridiculous to think Max Fried and Spencer Strider will both finish inside the top-five in the NL Cy Young race, and I would be willing to wager one of them will win it. Strider is the best strikeout pitcher in baseball right now, but because of all the hype surrounding him, Max Fried is just swimming under the radar with a 0.45 ERA and has yet to allow a run in his three starts since returning from the IL. It’s amazing how he comes into every season better than the year before.
For all the talk about the Braves lineup, it’s really been the rotation that has carried them so far in 2023. It’s unlikely they stay this consistent over the course of 132 more games, but neither will any other group of starting pitchers. At the end of the year, we could be talking about the Braves rotation as the best in baseball.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
You must log in to post a comment.