Though in use since at least the first few years of the 20th century, the name “Bryce” did not become relatively common until the early 1970s, jumping into the top 400 boy names for the first time in 1972. After that point, it had a steady ascent up the name ranks, finally breaking into the top 100 in 1998, where it remained until 2002. It makes sense, then, that on Friday, May 19, 2023, Braves and Mariners fans will tune in on to a battle of two Bryces, one born in 1998, and one born in 1999.
Beyond their given names and the last two letters of their surname, these two young right-handers have some surface-level similarities, and more saliently, some big differences. Bryces both Elder and Miller have had a lot of success in the early going in 2023, and have avoided a surfeit of runs charged to their sheet. But, their styles are nothing alike.
Elder doesn’t throw hard, relying on bamboozling hitters into weak groundball contact with the seam-shifted wake on his sinker and slider. He has a 44 ERA-, 84 FIP-, and 87 xFIP- on the season, and that xFIP- is driven by fewer walks and strikeouts than league average, and a grounder rate above the league average by more than 30 percent. Miller, meanwhile, has only had three major league starts, and has a league average-y strikeout rate while basically walking no one, but has given up an insane amount of fly balls in his three starts, none of which have yet gone for a homer.
In Brief, Miller’s three starts have been great, but he’s gotten by on a strategy that seems unicorn-esque in terms of its success proposition: throw a hard, high-”rise” fastball down the middle, and get hitters to swing under it because of its carry. That seems like it would work great up until hitters adjust, and terribly thereafter, but none of the Athletics, Astros, or Tigers managed to adjust when facing him, even though he faced batters a third time in each. (For what it’s worth, those 10 batters faced a third time were the only ones to end up charging a run to him, and he only struck out one of those ten.)
The Braves’ challenge then, is obvious: hit the fastball hard in the air, without getting under it. He’s probably not going to walk you, and the rest of his arsenal is infrequently used and at best, rough around the edges. Sit on the hard stuff and make the adjustment for its movement early on.
As for Elder, it’s all about the grounders. The contact he allows is loud, which you would expect given that he’s not throwing all that hard. But, enough of that contact is on the ground that he’s not just surviving, but thriving. The only three homers he allowed came in the same game, when he decided to groove pitches when behind in the count — before then, and since then, he hasn’t given in and no one’s been able to dunk his stuff over the fence. As a result, the Braves are 6-2 in his eight starts. (Meanwhile, the Mariners haven’t dropped a single Miller start yet).
So, in a conflict with shared names and very different pitching styles, it’ll be up to the offenses to make the needed adjustments and help their Bryce, and their squad overall, prevail.
Friday, May 19, 2023
7:20 pm EDT
Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Apple TV+
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM
XM Radio: Ch. 182