I do not, admittedly, have anything quite as extraordinary to offer the Braves as the curveball, or the fastball, or the veteran poise, or the quiet confidence, or any of the myriad other qualities that Bethany’s husband brings to Atlanta. But I did come up with the nickname for Max Fried, Varsity Fried, and I’m awfully proud of that.
I wrote him up a couple months ago, briefly looking at his history as a prospect before concluding: “Basically, the scouts were right all along: it took a little while for the results to catch up with the stuff, but catch up they did. Based on what he did in the regular season as well as the postseason, it’s pretty fair to conclude that Max is one of the top 20 starting pitchers in baseball, and that includes his Albertan teammate.”
So since I’ve already done that, I thought I’d just take a look-see at some of the numbers on baseballsavant.com.
I’m betting you won’t be shocked to learn that Ol’ Maxie is near the top of the starting pitching charts for a few different things.
1) For one thing, the hitters just couldn’t square him up. These leaderboards are minimum 100 Batted Ball Events:
Hard Hit %: 23.8 (lowest in baseball)
Brls/BBE% (Barrels per Batted Ball Event): 3.3% (2nd-lowest in baseball)
Brls/PA% (Barrels per Plate Appearance): 2.2% (3rd-lowest in baseball)
A “hard-hit ball” is one “hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher.”
A “Barrel” is defined as “A batted ball with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle.”
A “Batted Ball Event” is “any batted ball that produces a result.”
2) Because they couldn’t square him up, Varsity just killed hitters in the zone. Tom Tango defines four “attack regions” of where the pitch can go:
- The Heart of the Plate
- The Shadow Zone, which straddles the edge of the zone and includes pitches that are just in as well as pitches that are just out
- The Chase Region — these are all balls. They’re further out than the Shadow.
- The Waste Area — these are so far out that the pitcher screwed up to put it there, and any batter who swings has screwed up even worse.
All of these are minimum 500 pitches:
Heart of the Plate: -12 runs (tied for 10th-lowest in baseball)
Shadow Zone: -18 runs (tied for fourth-lowest in baseball)
Overall: -20 runs (tied for fourth-lowest in baseball)
3) Fried may have even been a bit unlucky. These expected statistics are minimum 200 PA.
wOBA: .272 (22nd-lowest in baseball)
xwOBA: .257 (8th-lowest in baseball)
ERA: 2.25 (8th-lowest in baseball)
xERA: 2.97 (also 8th-lowest in baseball; nearly all of baseball’s best pitchers significantly outperformed their xERA)
[N.B.: Those numbers make Fried look unlucky; in xwOBA, he trailed only Bauer, Bieber, Jacob deGrom, Kenta Maeda, Lamet, Cristian Javier (!), and Brandon Woodruff. But Fried’s FIP/xFIP/SIERA, which are tracked on Fangraphs leaderboards, make him look like he was wildly lucky. Minimum 50 IP:
FIP: 3.10 (16th-lowest in baseball)
xFIP: 4.05 (36th-lowest in baseball)
SIERA: 4.32 (40th-lowest in baseball)
So you hereby have my permission to ignore those.]
Now, obviously, I’m cherrypicking numbers that make him look good, but there are a lot of them.
Two months ago, I called him “one of the top 20 starting pitchers in baseball” and it’s possible that was overly conservative. If he takes another leap forward, he could be top ten.
I can’t wait to find out.
Thanks for reading the 2020 Braves Player Review on Max Fried. If you enjoyed this piece by Alex, check out another awesome piece by him.