This continues my series of awards for the Braves this season. If you missed any of the previous parts to this series, follow the links below:
- Best Braves reliever of 2022
- Most underrated Braves player of 2022
- Most disappointing Braves player of 2022
As far as consistency, few starting pitchers have been better than Max Fried over the last few seasons. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young race during 2020, and I expect him to flirt with the top five again following another stellar campaign. With one or two starts left before the end of the season, Fried is on pace to set career-lows in nearly every category — 2.50 ERA, 2.73 FIP, and 1.020 WHIP. What’s even crazier about the kind of season he’s having is it doesn’t even feel like he’s capped out his potential. Dave Roberts called Fried arguably the best left-handed pitcher in baseball earlier in the season, and I don’t think that’s a stretch.
Fried has been Mr. Consistent. He’s the veteran leader of this staff, and I fully expect him to get the ball in Game 1 of the postseason. However, as far as star power, Strider is the most talented pitcher on the team, and his stuff has led to him being one of the best pitchers in baseball this season.
Among all pitchers, Strider ranks seventh in fWAR at 4.9, just ahead of Max Fried, which is remarkable because Strider has only 130.2 innings pitched. Had the Braves allowed him to begin the year in the starting rotation, I fully believe we would be talking about Strider as the Cy Young of the National League as a rookie. He became the fastest pitcher in MLB history to 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson‘s record, and he will finish this season as the only pitcher in MLB history to strikeout 200 batters and surrender less than 100 hits.
Strider has fanned over 38% of the opponents he’s faced this season, owns a minuscule 1.83 FIP, and has done it all with basically two pitches. It has been deGrom-esque to witness, so while Fried has been spectacular in 2022, this year is all about the emergence of Spencer Strider, who looks like he will be an ace in this league for many years to come.