For all of last season, games against the Mets were a chance to gain ground in the division. From that first split of a four-game series in April in New York (Braves came in six games back, and left six games back), all the way to the apotheosis of sweeping the Mets in Atlanta as September gave way to October, the Braves were always looking up at their orange-and-blue clad rivals... until they suddenly weren’t.
This time around, things are a little different. The NL East is still hotly contested in the standings, with the Mets two games back, but in theory, things seem somewhat less urgent. The Braves currently have a 75 percent chance of winning the division, and while a ton can and probably will change over the next five-plus months, their playoff odds are up to 97 percent, so things feel relatively copacetic relative to how frantically desperate they were last year. Of course, if the Braves get swept in this four-game set, we’re all going to get reintroduced to the concept of “frantic” real quick, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because...
...the Braves are throwing Max Fried in Game 1 of this series. You know Fried. I know Fried. He’s great! After a 5.0 fWAR season (60 ERA-, 69 FIP-, 78 xFIP-) last year, Fried has mostly picked up where he left off across three starts and 15 total innings so far this year: 14 ERA-, 57 FIP-, 83 xFIP-. He’s allowed one run all season, hasn’t yet allowed a homer, and had two walk-less starts before finishing his most recent outing with a 5/3 K/BB ratio across 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings against the reigning MLB champs, the Astros.
Fried’s no stranger to the Mets, as he faced them five, count-’em, five times last year. Those five outings featured three Braves wins, two Mets wins, and one instance of Fried expelling the former contents of his stomach into a bucket in the dugout. He had a 3.01 FIP / 3.39 xFIP against the Mets last year (compared to 2.49 / 3.64 overall), and a 2.90 / 3.39 mark against them in 97 career innings (compared to 3.28 / 3.39 overall).
Opposing Fried will be no, not one of the Mets’ très cher employees, but David Peterson, a guy the Braves were pretty familiar with. Peterson’s seasonal line so far is all sorts of goofy: 185 ERA-, 133 FIP-, 79 xFIP-. He’s only had one bad K/BB ratio game (five each, second start of the year), but he’s gotten shelled by homers: one each in his first two starts, zero in the next, then three in six innings in Los Angeles, and then two in five innings in San Francisco. The issue for him appears to be somewhat obvious: he has a low-spin, meh-velocity, overall poor shape four-seamer, and he’s been laser-focused on throwing it at the top of the zone. That’s led to strikeouts, especially when paired with a slider, but also dingers — and he keeps throwing a sinker he hasn’t been able to command, which has also dinged him quite good.
Peterson faced Atlanta four times last year, including three starts, and fared pretty well in two of those starting outings. He was your generic swingman/shorter-stint starter last year, racking up 1.4 fWAR with a 94 FIP-/83 xFIP- across 105 2⁄3 innings last year. In other words, he’s been pretty good at preventing runs, but doesn’t do so in a way that makes him able to compile a lot of innings.
Overall, the Mets have really streaked through April so far. They won three of four, then got swept in Milwaukee. They then won 11 of their next 14 games, only to then lose four straight before snapping the skid with a wild 9-8 win in Washington. So far this season, they’re tied with the Braves for second place among all teams in position player fWAR, combining defensive value and OBP. The pitching, though, has been a disaster so far — the Mets are second-to-last, behind only the primed-for-a-record Athletics, in rotation fWAR. Only Max Scherzer and Joey Lucchesi have performed above replacement level in the rotation at the moment, and Scherzer’s numbers have been awful through four starts. There’s still probably a top-10 rotation somewhere in there, but it hasn’t been anything close to what they’ve expected from the boys in Queens so far.
Speaking of Queens, it’s not clear that this game is going to happen, at least in unimpeded fashion, as the forecast calls for intermittent rain after 2 pm today, but also much of the day Saturday and Sunday. We’ll see what happens.
Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets
Friday, April 28, 2023
7:10 pm ET
TV: Bankruptcy Sports South, MLB Network
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Online, Ch. 89