Why No Love For Freeman? (Plus Some Eerie Stats!)

Hello everyone!

As I watch the first snowflakes of the season fall here in Michigan, I’ve been scouring the ‘net looking for anything interesting related to the Braves. Doing this, I discovered something that truly surprises me: The seeming lack of faith in Freddie Freeman (and am I the only one having trouble remembering which “Fred” spells his name which way?).

It seems to me that there is an inordinate amount of worrying going on about how Freddie will perform, especially considering that it seems to me that the worrying time would be better spent focused on all the Braves outfielders who could legally drink this time last year. Instead, I see people rationalizing the signing of all kinds of free agent first basemen as “insurance in case Freeman isn’t as good as advertised”, or words to that effect. I read people stating with certainty that Freeman will be lucky to hit .250, and that he can’t handle big-league pitching. I even had one relatively well-known (at least his website says he’s well-known!) evaluator of talent describe him as “lumbering” in the field and no threat to win a Gold Glove! All I can figure is that their research consists of a few clips of this past September and studying his stat line from the same period.

You can accuse me of being a “homer”, but I think a good case can be made to make like Bobby McFerrin and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Bobby McFerrin\’s Thoughts On Freddie Freeman Need a little convincing? Say no more:

  • Freeman had a banner year in AAA last year, hitting .319/.378/.521, giving him an OPS of .899 to go along with 18 HR’s in 461 AB’s.   Considering that his OPS stood in the neighborhood of .750 at the start of June, he really mashed the rest of the year.  Keep in mind that he had an injured wrist for much of 2009, which may help explain his struggles early in the year as he worked on getting everything back in sync.
  • Freeman put up these numbers as a 20 year old (he turned 21 in September).  He was playing against older, more experienced competition whilst cleaning their clocks!
  • Freeman’s swing is deceptively short.  People assume (and I’ve seen it written) that his swing is long, I guess because he’s 6’5″ and 225.  Those of us who’ve seen him hit for any length of time know it’s not long.  But don’t be fooled; he can mash!  Ask Roy Halladay.  It would not surprise me at all if he hit 20+ HR’s in 2011, given the protection he’s going to get in the Braves lineup.
  • Want a reasonableness test?  Jason Heyward’s minor league stats over 3 seasons were .318/.391/.508, giving him an .899 OPS.  If you take out Freeman’s injury season of 2009, his 3 year minor league stats were .308/.362/.494, giving him an OPS of .856.  And, if you can believe this, his OBP was .378 for both of his full-year seasons.  That’s strange enough until you find out that his slugging for his two full-year seasons was an identical .521 in each season!  Identical OPS totals of .899 for those two seasons.  And the .899 OPS is identical to Heyward’s minor league  OPS.  I didn’t make this up! 

I am also certain that Freeman will be a well above average fielder.  He will catch anything thrown in his area code — and he covers a big area code!  I don’t see how anyone who’s seen him play even a few times can dispute this.

Negatives?  Well, he won’t kill lefties.  Premium left-handed pitchers will eat him up, as they will just about every other left-handed power hitter.  And it’s probably reasonable that it’ll take him some time to adjust to the majors.  I think this will be managed by the other Fred, with protection in the order combined with strategic days off.

I’m not worried.  How about you?

Tags: Atlanta Braves Braves Chipper Jones Freddie Freeman Jason Heyward

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