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Braves Encourage LFGM Mentality for Fried in Series Opener

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Let’s Force Grounders, Max!

MLB: AUG 01 Reds at Braves Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While I may be excommunicated for this, I actually will compliment the Mets. They acted against the grain at the trade deadline, but in doing so, may have executed the best value deal for a buyer this year. Furthermore, they kept their roster in tact. Not only has winning 15 out of 17 put them squarely in the Wild Card picture, they are also a team no one will look forward to facing for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

And yet, despite all the positive developments, they still are eight games behind the Braves in the division standings (It's good to be back.)

As the Mets head to Atlanta Tuesday, it is crazy how meaningful this series has become. It carries great significance for both teams . If either is swept, it certainly puts any positive momentum, no matter how recent it may be, in jeopardy. With how the Mets have been playing, it is crucial that the Braves bullpen gets back on track as quickly as possible.

One unit that has improved significantly since the All-Star Break is the starting rotation. The most recent example of that is tonight’s starter, Max Fried ( 4.11 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 3.41 xFIP). The brief IL stint for Fried seems to have been a nice recharge for his effectiveness. Though only 11.1 innings is the sample size, Fried is 2-0 with a strikeout rate above 30% and a ground ball rate sitting at 50% in August. The 50% ground ball rate is key, as Max’s effectiveness correlates pretty closely with how many balls hitters drive into the ground. Combined with his peak stretch of strikeouts, Fried’s current August FIP of 1.01 and xFIP of 2.24 are simply amazing.

Like Fried, the Mets starter for tonight, Zack Wheeler (4.20 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.76xFIP), experienced some injury concerns in July. And just like Fried, Wheeler seems to have come back stronger than ever. Similar to his strong second half performance last year, Wheeler has produced a 1.82 FIP and 2.88 xFIP through 15.0 innings in August. He arguably has been the Mets’ best starter during their incredible three week stretch.

Though they each do it in their own way, Fried and Wheeler are having somewhat similar seasons in terms of their overall effectiveness on the mound. Furthermore, both are currently pitching the best they have in 2019. Yes, the Braves are avoiding both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard this series. However, they may be facing just as good of an arm currently in Wheeler.

It seems to be a night where the team the makes the fewest mistakes wins. However, there are a few other potential trends working in the Braves favor. The Mets hitters have the 8th highest ground ball frequency rate in the majors; they also have the 11th highest strikeout frequency rate against southpaws. It seems Fried may be peaking at the right time to exploit those trends. Furthermore, Ronald Acuna Jr., Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann all have OPS measures above 1.000 in more than 10 plate appearances against Wheeler. If the Braves offense can get a couple of big hits, they hopefully will have enough room for the bullpen adventure to commence in a low-scoring game.

WPA-Freddie Freeman- 1.524 OPS in 37 career match-ups with Zach Wheeler. My algorithm says that will do.

Game Info

New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

7:20 PM EST

Suntrust Park, Atlanta, GA

TV: Fox Sports South

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network

XM Radio: XM Streaming 841