Freddie Freeman: Who We Thought He Was

For the second straight season, the Braves are breaking in a rookie position player at a corner spot. Last year it was Jason Heyward, who rewarded them with 5.1 WAR season and almost a Rookie of the Year trophy. This season it’s Freddie Freeman, who is not and never was expected to be the star Heyward immediately became. He’s a fine player, no doubt, but all he had to do was be better than the Derrek Lees and Carlos Penas of the expensive free agent world in 2011. With a .334 wOBA and 0.1 WAR to date, for all intents and purposes he’s done just that (.276, -0.4 and .328, 0.4, respectively). Since the Braves have played 69 games so far this year, let’s cut Freeman’s season into three equal pieces and check his performance at each point…

After 23 Games: .250/.349/.431, 3 HR, 10 BB, 11 K
After 46 Games: .241/.329/.372, 4 HR, 19 BB, 34 K
After 69 Games: .268/.335/.416, 6 HR, 22 BB, 56 K

Games 24-46: .233/.310/.315, 1 HR, 9 BB, 23 K
Games 47-69: .314/.344/.488, 2 HR, 3 BB, 22 K

The first thing that jumps out you is the big drop-off in Freeman’s walk rate and the big spike in his strikeout rate, which you can see graphically right here. Pitchers are throwing him a pitch in the zone just 39.5% of the time, a nasty little number when combined with his 34.1% out-of-zone swing rate. That means he’ll offer at two pitches out of the zone for every ten pitches he sees (give or take a few fractions of a pitch), or about four such swings in a typical game. The only other qualified batters with <40% Zone and >30% O-Swing are mashers Prince Fielder (39.3% and 30.4%), Adrian Gonzalez (39.9% and 37.5%) and Mike Stanton (39.4% and 32.0%), as well as the toasty (and not in a good way) Aubrey Huff (39.1% and 34.9%). Huff is pretty awful, but you can see why pitchers would avoid throwing something over the plate to the other three. Freeman is kind of in the middle there, not useless but not a huge threat. Either way, with rates like that you can see why his walk rate and strikeout rates continue to get worse as the season marches on.

Freeman’s recent spike in batting average has to do with hitting more line drives, always a fine recipe for raising the ol’ BABIP and AVG. Over-the-fence power was never really his calling card, but 15-20 homers were expected and that’s just about what he’s on pace to provide. ZiPS projected a .272/.333/.442 line with 18 homers before the season, which is middle to bottom shelf production at first base in standard mixed leagues. Freeman’s just a few doubles short of that triple-slash line and a good week away from the homer projection, so he’s doing almost exactly what we thought he was. The problem is that it’s easy to find that level of production at first. I really liked Freeman as a first base sleeper coming into the season, though he’s performing as expected and unfortunately for him, that makes him about the 20th best fantasy first baseman.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

7 Responses to “Freddie Freeman: Who We Thought He Was”

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  1. JT Grace says:

    I think a lot of people forget that Freddie is still only 21 years old. He may not be a fantasy star this year, or even next year. However, I think that in the future he could be a 25-30 HR 1B. He hit a HR in Houston that was one of the longest hit in that park this season. Unfortunately, that has caused him to start swinging for the fences at almost every at-bat. He is a youngster so that was bound to happen. It’s up to the Atlanta coaches to reign him back in. Once he learns to harness that power he can be a fantasy elite 1B.

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  2. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I see him as a future JT Snow who was a solid player in his day.

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    • JT Grace says:

      That is underrating him tremendously. I see him more like a Mark Grace but with more power. Check out his minor league stats, where he was almost always the youngest player in the league at every stop along the way.

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  3. slick says:

    Lame article. Complaining that the projections were correct.

    Not everyone is going to be a superstar. Huff is pretty(really) awful? He seems to have had a solid career to me.

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  4. spike says:

    So, um, everybody feeling a bit better about young Freeman now? He’s doing exactly what he did every step of the way in the minors. 2 months to figure it out and then watch out.

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    • JT Grace says:

      Right on!!! Freddie should easily surpass the 18 HR Zips projections. I’m guessing that he is owned in quite a few fantasy leagues now. Not bad for a 21 year old rookie who is hitting in the middle of the order for the 4th best team in baseball.

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  5. Turner says:

    I played highschool ball with Freddie and he has some of the quickest hands I’ve ever seen. For a 21 year old he already has a advanced approach at the plate and I personally know him and know he strives to get better every day. I used to be able to strike him out up and in with a good hard 4 seem which is what i see as Freddie’s biggest weakness but with time He’ll be able to pull that ball down the right field line. Hell of a glove at first base also. Braves fans consider yourself lucky.

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