Last night the Braves 2011 campaign ended as most who watched them every day regretfully predicted. It’s too early for an inquest so while most of us have ideas why things went as they did the time for examining those is later, after the pain is mostly gone. Then the distance of time and hard data will determine which are ideas accurate and which are emotional bias. Certainly decisions have to be made at the highest levels about how to fix our shortcomings and do better next year.
By most standards however, the year was successful. We finished with 89 wins and were in with a playoff chance until the last out. For that to occur some things obviously went right and sometimes we are so close to the day-to-day ups and downs, we don’t recognize how truly impressive some individuals performances were. I’m going to look at some of those over the next few days. Today a look at Freddie Freeman’s 2011.
Without question Freeman was the league everyday player rookie of the year. As he had done before at every level – and <ahem> I predicted he would last spring when many screamed that Eric Hinske should play instead – Freeman took about a month to figure out the pitching and adjust. He adjusted very well. When pitchers changed their formula he hit a mini-slump yet was still productive in run producing situations. He adjusted once more to the pitchers’ change in strategy and didn’t slow down the rest of the year.
Freeman was the first Braves rookie to hit more than 20 home runs since Chipper Jones in 1995 and their first ever rookie first baseman to do it. In fact Jones numbers in 95 are remarkably similar to Freeman’s this year.
Freeman’s numbers also led all qualifying rookies in every category – tied Danny Espinoza in home runs –, and placed 6th among all qualifying National League first basemen in BA and 7th in on base and slugging.
As a Brave Freeman quietly dominated most offensive categories. The chart makes it easy to grasp just how good his year was.
|Stat||Result||Braves Rank||Rookie Rank||Notes|
|XBH||53||2nd||2nd||Uggla, Espinoza 55|
|OPS+||118||4rd||1st||Uggla, Jones, Mccann|
*While Michael Bourn finished with a .301 average and .356 on base, much of that was done prior to him joining the team. As a Brave Bourn hit .278.
Freeman did swing at first pitches 41% of the time but his line was .425/.418/.678 with 5 home runs. 17 RBI and a BAbip of .376, so perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing.
On the downside he was second on the team in strikeouts to Dan Uggla with 142 and 3rd grounding into double plays behind Alex Gonzalez and Martin Prado. Well, nobody ever accused Freeman of being fast.
In the field Freeman was the major factor in raising the Braves infield defense from 30th last year to 4th this year. Alex Gonzalez sparkling plays at shortstop got a lot of applause but many would have turned into groans with most of our recent first basemen playing there. He was fearless chasing balls into the stands, made numerous superb plays with his glove and of course his ability to stretch is now almost legendary amongst Atlanta fans. I’ve seen a lot of people play that position and I don’t recall any who regularly extended themselves that far.
On the whole, 2011 was a stellar rookie year for for Freeman. He would certainly be the National League Rookie of the Year if it weren’t for his teammate Craig Kimbrel. I’ll talk about his year next time.