Nearly a third of the way into the 2019 season, the starting rotation of the Atlanta Braves is being anchored to two surprising pitchers. The impressive pitching duo of Mike Soroka and Max Fried remind many of a couple of Hall of Famers that led the Braves to division titles 14 out of 15 seasons between 1991-2005. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux collected five Cy Young Awards during the historic run of division crowns. Many fans are quick to point out the similarities in the two lefty-righty hurler combinations. Given their early successes, the sky is the limit for Soroka and Fried.
A rash of injuries in spring training led to the Braves starting the season with an unforeseen pitching rotation. Injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman left the Braves looking to a familiar face in Julio Teheran to open the season against the Philadelphia Phillies. Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson filled in until the vets were healthy. Soroka also missed time with shoulder soreness and didn’t make his season debut until April 18th against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Soroka and Fried were recognized as top prospects for the stacked Braves organization. Few predicted such a quick rise to the top of the rotation though. Several weeks into the season and it is difficult to understate their importance to the team this season.
Long-time Braves fans start having flashbacks when they see the potent left hand-right hand combo performing so well. Maddux and Glavine sat atop a pitching rotation that helped the team earn its only World Series title since moving to Atlanta. The two capped their careers by going into the Hall of Fame together in 2014.
At the very least, Soroka is a strong candidate to earn a trip to the All-Star Game and is in the Rookie of the Year discussion.
Mike Soroka wants that Rookie of the Year award. pic.twitter.com/M6dinAYDBM
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) May 21, 2019
Despite some similarities in the two pitching duos, there are some distinct differences as well. Soroka and Fried are having nearly instant success in the majors. Maddux and Glavine both made their big league debuts while in their early twenties. However, both struggled early in their careers. In Glavine’s second season he went 7-17 with a bloated 4.56 ERA. Maddux began his career with the Chicago Cubs. After appearing in a few games in 1986, he also struggled to a 6-14 record in his first full big league campaign. In his third season, he won 18 games and made the All-Star team.
Fried earned his league-leading seventh win against the Giants on Wednesday. Manager Brian Snitker was quick to heap praise on the young left-hander. He told Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “He’s got a special arm, a special left arm. He’s got the mindset that’s going with it. He’s learning how to pitch.”
After a couple of early appearances in relief, Fried joined the starting rotation. On the season, he sits at 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA. He has limited baserunners and has a 1.118 WHIP in 56.1 innings pitched.
Last season, shoulder problems ended Soroka’s season early. Shoulder problems sidelined him again this spring. There were whispers of chronic shoulder concerns that could derail his promising career. The two issues were separate and the Braves were overly cautious. Soroka made his first appearance this season in mid-April. The defeat to the Diamondbacks is his sole loss on the season. He has the confidence to pound hitters inside and is poised beyond his age. He leads the league, hitting six batters with pitches already. With balls leaving the park at a record-breaking pace, Soroka has only surrendered one home run.
It’s too early to tell if either Soroka or Fried are destined for the Hall of Fame careers that Glavine and Maddux turned in, but the ceiling is certainly high for the young pitching duo.
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