Max Fried’s defense adds to his Cy Young candidacy

By MARK SIMON

We don’t talk much here about pitching defense, so let’s remedy that by writing about Braves pitcher Max Fried.

Fried is a Cy Young candidate this season with a 7-0 record and a 1.96 ERA. He’s also a candidate for a Fielding Bible Award. He leads pitchers with 4 Defensive Runs Saved.

What caught our eye this past weekend was this play against Todd Frazier of the Mets. Fried hustled to the third base side to field Frazier’s slow roller and fired a strike to Freddie Freeman at first base to get the out. The play, one with a 39% out probability, netted Fried nearly a half-run in Runs Saved.

It resembled the kinds of plays made by Gold Glove winners like Zack Greinke and Dallas Keuchel. In fact, Keuchel made an almost identical play against Frazier last season.

Fried makes all kinds of plays. If you prefer seeing something that tests his reflexes, here’s a knockdown and recovery of a hard ground ball by J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies from 2019, when he saved 5 runs.

The other thing that contributes to Fried’s defensive excellence is his success with pickoffs. He had four last season and already has four in 2020, which is tied with Tyler Anderson of the Giants for most in MLB. Pickoffs and basestealing deterrence contributed to 2 Runs Saved to Fried’s total in each of the last two seasons.

There’s plenty to like about Fried. He has gotten positive value out of his fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup this season. And he’s stepped up to become an ace in the absence of injured teammate Mike Soroka. That he’s good with the glove just adds to his value on the mound and makes his 2020 even more impressive.

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