In all the years this writer has followed the Atlanta Braves, nobody has quite been like Max Fried. He is poised and confident both on the mound and at the plate. His sizzling stick has brought him to the lofty heights of hurlers who hit. The popular hashtag “pitchers who rake” is singularly descriptive of this man’s ability. When it comes to the actual pitching, he backs that up as well. Truly, we are beholding the greatest pitching and hitting talent since Babe Ruth. There really is no comparison. No one in the league can touch him. Max Fried is, simply put, a definite lock for the Cy Young Award and the MVP Award. In fact, just go ahead and have him solve all the world’s problems with a glove and a bat.
Unfortunately for this heroic figure, there seems to be a disturbance in the American League. The Los Angeles Angels have placed someone in direct competition to Fried’s greatness: Shohei Ohtani. Oh, but surely he could not destroy the dynasty that Max Fried has built. After all, he plays in the American League. Pitchers don’t even bat in the junior circuit! Theoretically, it should be absolutely ludicrous to say that the best pitcher and the best hitter exist there. So, this calls for a little comparison. We will put Fried up against Ohtani and see who comes out as the winner.
Max Fried Vs. Shohei Ohtani: Offense
Let’s begin at the plate. Offensively speaking, Max Fried is far from a liability. He’s hitting a career-high .333 (9-27) with five RBIs. He’s slugging .407 and getting on base at a .379 clip. His OPS+ is 106, ranking up there with some of the bigger bats on the team. However, here’s the fun part. His BABIP is an astounding .450 and his wRC+ is 116. His plate discipline is excellent. He’s only swinging at 43.4% of pitches that he sees. Of course, he’s striking out 20.6% of the time and walking a mere 5.9% of the time. Seriously, Max Fried is truly amazing. Once more, it must be said that he is the best hitting pitcher since The Sultan of Swat. This Ohtani guy couldn’t touch Max with a ten-foot pole.
However…upon further review, it seems that there may be some slight miscalculations. The fact that Ohtani has way more at-bats than Fried surely couldn’t play a massive role. Let’s put him to the test, just to be fair. He’s leading the American League with 34 homers and a .679 slugging average. That’s nice, but let’s not get our hopes up just yet. Ohtani’s only hitting .274. Of course, that’s in 321 at-bats as opposed to Fried’s 27. Also, Ohtani has 88 hits as opposed to Fried’s nine. So, it’s not looking too good for Fried. He does strike out less, however, Ohtani walks more.
Possible Hope For Max Fried
Nevertheless, all hope is not lost in Fried’s camp. Certainly, some of the more advanced statistics must point in his direction. Here’s something: Ohtani’s BABIP is only .302. Again, he’s had more at-bats than Fried, but surely something like a sample size couldn’t affect things so potently. Certainly, a sad, sorry concept like logic could not permeate Fried’s dominance. Perhaps Max can win in the wRC+ category. Unfortunately, Ohtani’s wRC+ is 174. So, there’s another loss. Well, okay, those are only two statistics. There are more. Much more, in fact. For example, Fried’s wOBA is .347, and Ohtani’s is a measly….426. Alright, but Max has a wRAA of 0.9, and Ohtani’s is only…33.6. Unfortunately for Braves fans, it seems this Ohtani might have Max Fried licked at the plate after all.
Max Fried Vs. Shohei Ohtani: Pitching
Let’s shift gears and look at what all pitchers are truly judged on: their ability on the mound. Now, we all know what Max Fried can do. He went undefeated last season with an ERA under 2.50, finishing fifth in Cy Young Award voting. While this year has not been as kind, it must be better than Ohtani. Let’s take a look. Max Fried is 7-5 with a 4.29 ERA and a 105 ERA+. Okay, so it isn’t the rebirth of John Smoltz or Greg Maddux, but it’s still decent. His WHIP of 1.331 isn’t terrible and a FIP of 3.83 hangs around his mark from last season. He has also only given up nine home runs in 79.2 innings. The troubling thing is his H/9 of 9.0. That’s up from a 6.8 last year. However, he has improved on his BB/9 and his K/9 numbers, so there’s that. Maybe he has a chance in this category.
Unfortunately, Ohtani has done a lot more in one fewer game. It seems some Braves team pride must be swallowed yet again. Ohtani is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA and a much higher 145 ERA+. Those numbers are impressive. However, that’s only the beginning. He’s given up a minuscule six home runs in 73 innings this season. His BB/9 rate is 4.4 and his K/9 rate is 11.7, easily outpacing Max Fried’s numbers. His WHIP (1.164) and FIP (3.37) are both much lower than Fried’s. It seems that all the previous praise for Fried was based solely upon team bias and not objective analysis.
A Good Lesson Learned
Now, it’s fairly obvious here that these opinions are extremely tongue in cheek. Ohtani is an outstanding player and would probably defeat Max Fried in everything from baseball to bowling. However, this also presents an important thing for baseball fans and writers everywhere to remember. Objectivity and analysis will always win out over the blunt support of one’s team. Yes, there are good and bad moments for every squad. There are times when we all want to question things and droop ourselves in depression. Then, there are the moments when we cheer and throw our arms up in unabashed ecstasy. Nevertheless, we must be willing to take facts for what they are.
For the record, this writer certainly doesn’t believe that Max Fried is better than the leading AL MVP Award candidate. That being said, Fried is steadily improving. Last season, the shortened sample size skewed a lot of statistics for a lot of players. Fried was one of these victims. This season, he is being seen in a full campaign for the first time in two years. While this has affected him negatively, it’s also affected him positively. If he continues to trend upward on the mound and at the plate, then only fate can say what will happen. Perhaps Max Fried might be the next Shohei Ohtani.
Embed from Getty Images