The Braves rotation is hobbled entering the NLDS. Charlie Morton will miss at least the first round with a right index finger sprain and could potentially be out for the NLCS as well. Max Fried is also on the IL with a blister, and Kyle Wright has not been healthy for the entire season. This feels all too familiar as the playoffs are set to begin, but are the Braves actually in better shape this year than they were last October?
This might surprise some, but I don’t think it’s even particularly close. Last year heading into the NLDS, Max Fried had lost 15 pounds due to illness and was attempting to gut it out. Being the competitor that he is, nobody was going to tell him no. He’s earned that right, but the illness clearly had an effect on his performance. Perhaps the blister issue he is dealing with currently will as well. We won’t know until this weekend, but the couple of weeks he has had off ahead of the NLDS should do the trick. I’m expecting a much better version of Max Fried this season than we saw last year.
Then, there’s Spencer Strider. The guy hadn’t pitched in nearly a month and was dealing with an oblique strain, which can take several months to heal. He wasn’t anywhere close to 100%, and by the third inning of his start, he was out of gas, losing over 5 MPH on his heater. That’s not the Spencer Strider opponents will be facing in October this time around.
Losing Charlie Morton is a big blow, especially with how he was pitching this season, but the Charlie Morton who pitched for the Braves last year wasn’t nearly as reliable. Kyle Wright was really the only starting arm on the Braves staff healthy and in good form for the 2022 NLDS, and he delivered a gem in the team’s only win of the series. Not having him in the same form compared to last year is certainly a knock on this rotation, but Wright did look better in his last couple of outings before the end of the regular season and could provide something in October.
A healthy Max Fried and Spencer Strider might be the best one-two punch in all of baseball. The Braves didn’t have either of them right a year ago. If they are in 2023, this pitching staff is in much better shape than they were last October.
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