Next on the list is our home grown first baseman, Freddie Freeman. Freeman struggled during the first month of the 2011 season, but after he adjusted to the league (just like he did in practically every league) he never looked back. He performed better than most people expected and would have won the NL Rookie of the Year Award if it wasn’t for teammate Craig Kimbrel. You have to hate saves…
Anyways, a slash line of .282/.346/.448 with 21 homeruns, 76 RBI, and 67 runs is pretty impressive for a rookie. If I remember correctly, Freeman wasn’t predicted to hit more than 20 homeruns and we expected more along the lines of 10-15. 21 home runs might not sound great for a first baseman, but it is certainly better than what we (or at least me) expected.
the rest after the break…
The best thing about Freeman offensively is his ability to hit the ball to both all over the field. Aside from Jose Bautista and a few other players, you want to be able to go backside just as much as you pull the ball. Freeman excelled in this aspect and makes it much easier for him to keep his average up, and more importantly adjust to pitches, instead of hitting a little dribbler to the shortstop.
Here is a link to Freeman’s spray chart, just so you can see how well he spreads the ball out. The ability to go backside is extremely valuable at the major league level, and if he can add some more power to that skill he will put up some extremely good numbers.
Let’s take a look at the some projections and stats for Freeman.
Unlike yesterday with Michael Bourn, I am going to side with Bill James’ projection on Freeman, mainly because I don’t think Freddie will hit 23 homers next season. I do think he will keep his average around where it is, and everyone on the team should see a bump in their OBP. James is projecting a line extremely similar to what he put up in his rookie season which is really about all you can do.
I would say it is more likely for Freeman to take a step back than to improve on his numbers because he is not an elite hitter like Jason Heyward. He is a really good hitter, but I’m not going to try and tell you he will hit 25+ homers. His ISO of .166 ranked 18th out of qualified first baseman (right above Gaby Sanchez) and he also had the lowest ISO out of first baseman with 20 or more home runs.
As far as his batted ball stats go, he had a LD% of 23.0% which is second behind Joey Votto for first baseman and is much higher than average. He was right in the middle of the pack with GB% at 42.4% and near the bottom of the group in FB% with his 34.6%.
He could improve the power numbers if he hit more fly balls but his HR/FB ratio isn’t that great (14.0%) and he might just lower his LD% and average if he does.
With that said, Freeman should still be able to have a high average and some decent pop. The .339 BABIP may seem high but that is due to his awesome LD% and backside hitting. He will most likely have a higher than average BABIP for his career, if last year is a good measurement of his ability.
Defensively, Freeman has been thought of very well by scouts and thought of horribly by UZR. Like I mentioned yesterday, I don’t really like UZR and I especially don’t like the metric for infielders. I don’t think it can measure how well a first baseman can make picks from other infielders and based on who are starters will be (Chipper, Pastornicky, Uggla) I’d say that’s a bit more important than how much range he has.
If you want to read into UZR’s –12.6 rating then go ahead, but Freeman will be helping the defense a lot more than hurting it.
We don’t really need to bring up speed/stolen bases with Freeman, he shouldn’t be advancing unless the ball is hit or goes to the backstop.
Freddie Freeman isn’t going to join the group of elite first baseman anytime soon but we don’t need him to. Our second base and catching positions give us much better production than most teams do and makes up for his lack of monster numbers. It is great to have a solid, steady hitter you can depend upon in your line up and based on what we saw in 2011, he is capable of doing that.
If you don’t know what some (or any) of the stats are feel free to drop a comment and I’d be glad to explain.