The Atlanta Braves announced Friday they were ending Max Fried's 2023 regular season because of a blister issue on his throwing hand. It marked the third time the left-hander has hit the injured list this season and it's unclear what his status is for the playoffs.
Right off the bat, Los Angeles Dodgers fans might've thought they'd be receiving a postseason edge over the MLB-best Braves and, in a sense, they are. They might not have to face one of the best pitchers in baseball when the NLCS rolls around (or, in greater likelihood, could go up against him when he's not 100%), if they make it that far.
Any absence/nagging injury for the Braves will be key for the Dodgers, who are still limping ahead with their starting rotation -- the most important aspect of any roster heading into October. LA's offense and bullpen has carried them over the last couple months and that trend looks to sustain beyond the next week.
The one clear advantage is, if Fried is compromised or unable to pitch, the Dodgers could avoid someone who owns a 2.68 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 56 strikeouts over eight career starts (43.2 innings) against them.
On the flip side? The Braves are a 100-plus win team and have the best road record (and overall record) in the sport. And they've managed to accomplish that with only 14 Fried starts this season. Though they're 11-3 in those games and Fried went on a good run in Aug-Sept after making just one start across May-July, they're very much a wagon with or without their ace lefty.
Max Fried's injury issues may not help the Dodgers that much come playoff time
Though Spencer Strider didn't exactly scare the Dodgers the last time these two teams faced off, he's still the best strikeout artist in the league right now. The Braves also have postseason stalwart Charlie Morton in addition to a bullpen that gets the job done (3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .234 BAA).
Bryce Elder's extremely lucky 2023 season has normalized, as he's gotten humbled largely since July., but the Braves have asked 16 different pitchers to start for them and have managed to blow by the rest of the league despite the distinct burden of putting that much pressure on the pitching staff.
Much like the Dodgers, the Braves live and die mostly by their offensive performances. They have the best lineup in the league, with the Dodgers right behind them. This potential NLCS matchup was always going to be about which offense shows up for seven games, with the pitching very much a secondary storyline.
The baseball community is already talking about how this might help the Phillies when the Braves have an entire startling lineup of above-average to All-Star hitters. Philly got the best of them in last year's NLDS, but this season very much has a different narrative heading into October.
This probably helps a team like the Padres a lot more than it does the Dodgers. Anyway, we'll continue to keep tabs on Fried, but will be under the assumption the Dodgers' offense will still be the driving force in any playoff victory over the Braves because of how disadvantaged LA's pitching is for the rest of the year.