He doesn’t play the same position. He doesn’t typically hit in the same spot in the lineup. He’s not a switch hitter. He’s bigger, slower, and women might argue over whether he’s as cute. All that withstanding, I’ll make the argument that if anyone could ever replace the offense and overall leadership of Chipper Jones, it would be Freddie Freeman. Who would replace Chipper in terms of leadership after he retired was the question last year, and not much has really been written about it since.
Last year, I heard people discuss players such as Jason Heyward and Brian McCann. I’m not sure if I recall really hearing any other names beyond that, although Freddie Freeman may well have been bounced about. I never bought into Jason taking over leadership. He’s roughly the same age as Freddie, is just as experienced, but can be a touch too streaky and just doesn’t have the same club presence as the affable Freddie Freeman. Brian McCann certainly could fill that role. He’s loved by all his teammates, staff, and fans, and is one of the most productive catchers in baseball, but there is currently a huge question as to whether Brian will even be with the Braves in 2014. With the way that baseball is changing these days, fans will rarely see any player staying with a club throughout their career anymore, and unfortunately the same may well be true of Freddie.
All that said, the question of some sort of day-to-day, tangible clubhouse leadership really doesn’t matter all that much. Several players in any organization can take leadership roles in various ways. I think a bigger question is that intangible leadership a player offers by just playing well, being clutch, and being that player you know you can rely on day-in, day-out. Even though Freddie hasn’t been in the Big Show that long, he would get my vote as that leader who brings both those tangible and intangible qualities to the role. By all accounts, he’s loved by management, staff, and teammates, and is obviously loved by fans in Braves Country. He hugs a lot, always has a ready smile, gives freely to reporters, and the most important thing – he’s just a great baseball player, both offensively and defensively.
Freddie Freeman has been on fire recently, and his numbers speak volumes about his value to the Atlanta Braves. Let’s look a some of his offensive and defensive numbers, to help get a better feel for what I’m writing about.
Below is a table showing Freddie Freeman’s standard, season totals for the 2013 season, including the last week, last two weeks, and last month. You will note that in the last 7 days alone, in 25 plate appearances, Freddie has hit a whopping .381 BA, with a combined OBP and SLG OPS of 1.051. During that span, Freddie got 8 hits, with a double, a homer, and 4 RBIs. Delving a touch deeper, you’ll note that in the last two weeks, the numbers are similar. In 54 plate appearances, Freddie hit for a similar .375 BA, with a combined OBP and SLG OPS of .944. During that slightly longer span, Freddie delivered 18 hits, with 3 doubles, a homer, and 9 RBIs. Please, look at the last month totals, and you’ll see Freddie Freeman has been hot for awhile now.
|Last 7 days||6||6||25||21||1||8||1||0||1||4||4||3||.381||.480||.571||1.051||2|
|Last 14 days||13||13||54||48||3||18||3||0||1||8||6||8||.375||.444||.500||.944||2|
|Last 28 days||26||26||110||101||14||37||5||1||5||22||8||23||.366||.418||.584||1.002||2|
Then if we start looking at Freddie Freeman’s numbers with situational or clutch hitting, it’s even more impressive. I’ll let you delve into the numbers with a fine-tooth comb, but to summarize the table below, Freddie is very effective in clutch situations, with really good BAs and good OPS numbers in a variety of situations. In short, when the Atlanta Braves need a clutch hit, it’s always a good thing to have Freddie Freeman at the plate or on deck.
|2 outs, RISP||24||35||12||3||0||0||18||6||8||.414||.514||.517||1.032||15||2|
|Late & Close||27||38||14||1||0||1||6||3||6||.400||.447||.514||.962||18||2|
|Within 1 R||54||132||37||6||0||3||25||14||22||.316||.394||.444||.838||52||2|
|Within 2 R||58||175||47||9||0||5||30||18||33||.301||.377||.455||.832||71||2|
|Within 3 R||59||205||59||11||1||6||39||18||36||.319||.385||.486||.872||90||2|
|Within 4 R||59||221||65||13||1||6||44||19||40||.325||.389||.490||.879||98||2|
|Margin > 4 R||22||31||8||0||0||1||4||3||9||.286||.355||.393||.748||11||0|
Another important facet of Freddie’s prowess with the bat can be seen when you look at his numbers in various counts. As you can see in the table below, the only real weakness in Freddie’s game are when he falls behind in the count (such as 0-2), and the an0malous 2-2 counts. The numbers show that Freddie is a patient hitter, looks for the pitch he wants, and consistently delivers.
Then there’s Freddie defense. As you will see in the table below, Freddie is prone to commit errors, with 12 errors last year and already 6 so far this year. Even at that, Freddie will scoop balls out of the dirt with the best of them, will stretch like a ballet dancer, “Cods to Sod” as I like to call it, and in 2013 still has fewer errors than 1B stalwarts Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez. Even with some errors aside, he is still one of the best defensive 1Bs in baseball. His Rookie of the Year selection in 2011 attests to that, and Freddie Freeman is consistently in the top 5 in range factor, fielding percentage, and assists.
Freddie Freeman is the complete package, and a player that fans all across Brave’s Country hope will be with Atlanta Braves for a long time to come. He might not end up being a Brave with the longevity of a Chipper Jones, but he certainly has the drive, determination, skills, and all those intangibles I mentioned earlier that can potentially make Freddie Freeman a leader, if not one of the best leaders the Braves have ever had. We’ll always tip our cap to you, Chipper, but Braves fans are starting to learn to cut the proverbial apron strings This changing of the guard has, in my mind, a spotlight firmly focused on Freddie Freeman. At least for now.