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Giants vs. Braves, 5/22

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Samardzija (2-2, 4.90 FIP) vs. Fried (LHP; 6-2, 3.52 FIP)

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MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

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The Braves haven’t been quite sure what to do with Austin Riley. He’s a third baseman by trade but they’re using him in left field. Not tonight, of course, as Josh Donaldson gets the night off. Donaldson missed three games between the end of April and beginning of May, but since then, he’d played in 18 straight since May 3rd.

Hey, he’s 33 years old and tomorrow’s a day game. Good time to give him a night off.

CF — Ronald Acuña Jr.
SS — Dansby Swanson
1B — Freddie Freeman
RF — Nick Markakis
3B — Austin Riley
C — Brian McCann
2B — Ozzie Albies
LF — Matt Joyce
SP — Max Fried

What do you need to know about Max Fried? Besides his left-handedness, he’s been very good all year long. His 2.86 ERA is 15th in MLB (7th in NL) and his 46:11 K:BB (or 4.18 K/BB) is 23rd overall.

Intriguingly, he compares favorably to Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner’s ERA is a not good 4.21, but his 3.54 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching — a pitcher’s three true outcomes converted into an ERA-like number) is 33rd-best in baseball, and just behind Fried’s 3.52. Bumgarner’s 5.82 K/BB is better than Fried’s and if you get granular with it, Bumgarner’s also better in strikeout rate (25% to 22.4%) and walk rate (4.3% to 5.4%).

Their arsenals are much different, however. Fried is more of a four-seam/curve pitcher, averaging 93.9 mph with his fastball (Bumgarner’s averaging 91.5 mph with his two-seamer) and one of the highest spin rate curveballs in baseball.

Not only does his curve spin at a much higher rate than average, it also has a vertical movement that’s 7.3 inches greater than the league average curveball. This according to Statcast’s new pitch movement tracking chart. Here’s a look at the pitch itself:

Good luck to these Giants against that pitch tonight...

2B — Donovan Solano
1B — Tyler Austin
3B — Evan Longoria
C — Buster Posey
RF — Kevin Pillar
SS — Brandon Crawford
LF — Mac Williamson
CF — Steven Duggar
SP — Jeff Samardzija

Remarkably, Jeff Samardzija’s four-seam fastball, sinker, and cutter are all elite spin rate pitches (all in top 11). He’s just... not locating his pitches very well or fooling batters with sequencing or other deception. Average exit velocity on his pitches is 87.8 mph and the average launch angle is 19.7 degrees.

The expected weighted on base average on contact (xwOBAcon) is .373. Anything over .340 is considered “above average” and over .370 considered “Great” — if you’re a hitter. It’s Not Great if you’re a pitcher, and Samardzija’s 4.90 FIP reflect that.

Samardzija recorded 0 strikeouts in his last game and has allowed 15 hits and 10 earned runs (5 home runs) over his last 14.1 IP (three starts). On paper, tonight looks like a very bad matchup for him.