The Atlanta Braves have had a shaky start to the season, despite a less-than-difficult schedule and currently sit at 7-10. They will look to buck that trend Tuesday night when they begin a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
Max Fried will take the mound for Atlanta and he has been fantastic this season. He is currently fourth in MLB in fWAR (behind Kyle Wright at third) and has an ERA/xERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 3.50/2.88/1.53/2.39, so he has been pretty unlucky. The most interesting development with Fried this season is the (re)emergence of his changeup. Max threw his changeup some when he came up in 2017 and 2018, but barely threw it all from 2019-2021 because it was terrible in 2017-18. He has started throwing it again this season at about 10% of the time and it has been a very effective pitch for him. It helps that it has a different direction horizontal movement from the rest of his stuff and allows him to throw his fastball less, which has good velocity but has never had good spin and movement. He has also located the changeup nicely on the arm-side edge of the zone, mostly at a low to medium height. It will be worth continuing to track his usage and effectiveness of this pitch for Fried as the season progresses. Max has shown the ability to develop in the past, such as in 2019 when he seemingly developed an elite slider out of nowhere, so this would be far from unprecedented for him, especially since he threw the changeup earlier in his career.
Marcus Stroman will take the mound for the Cubs. He has been around a while and has pretty consistently been a solid starter with the model of getting a lot of ground balls, not walking many batters, and limiting home runs, despite low strikeout rates. Stroman has a mix of a low-90s fastball, which he throws just under 50% of the time, and a cutter, changeup, and slider that he mixes in the rest of his pitches.
The Cubs’ biggest storyline this season is Seiya Suzuki being incredible in his first season in MLB. The Cubs signed the 27 year old Suzuki out of Japan after a number of teams were reportedly interested in him, including the Braves according to some sources. Suzuki has produced at a ridiculous rate so far, with a 227 wRC+. While he is outperforming his xwOBA by a large margin, meaning he isn’t hitting balls as well as the outcomes suggest, even if he were to stabilize at his xwOBA level of production, he would still be producing at a very high level. He should be a tough out for Braves pitching this season and is an interesting storyling to watch league-wide this season.
Game Date/Time: Monday, April 26, 7:20 pm EDT
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Ch. 177