June 29, 2011 at 9:43 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
On the morning of May 28th I wrote the following:
Freeman is hitting .243/.326/.367. That’s not good enough for a first baseman.
Let’s be clear, I’m not saying the Braves should option Freeman down to AAA and go in a different direction at 1B for the rest of the year, just that the issue deserves some consideration.
In the month since that was written, Freddie Freeman has done a pretty good healthy Josh Hamilton impression: .302/.345/.528 in 113 PA’s. He has played in 27 of the team’s 29 games in that span, and in those 27 game the Braves have gone 18-9, scoring 4.41 runs/game (they lost the two games he didn’t appear in). Freeman has basically been *the man* for the Braves offense over the past month. They certainly wouldn’t be leading the wild card standings without Freeman’s strong play as of late, and they might not even be in 2nd place in the NL East.
While Freeman has proved he belongs with the big club and I was wrong for doubting him, I’m certain that Freeman isn’t *this* good and this type of production won’t last. Consider: Freeman has struck out 32 times in 106 at-bats over the past month. While I don’t think it’s necessarily bad for a player to strike out a lot, it’s exceptionally difficult to maintain a .300 batting average when you’re striking out in 30 percent of your at-bats. Freeman’s batting average on contact (BACON) over the past month is .432, which is simply unsustainable.
And then there’s the power. A .226 ISO is very good, just like a .302 batting average is very good. I’m equally skeptical of his ability to maintain the ISO, though. Freeman has hit 5 homers over the past month on 74 contacted balls (6.76% HRCON). That isn’t an unsustainable figure in a vacuum, but when you consider that Freeman doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls, it probably is. Turn one homer into an out and Freeman’s slugging average goes from .528 to .491. Take another one away and it goes down to .452. Things could get ugly without a bit of generous HRCON fortune.
None of this would be a huge deal if Freeman were walking, but he just doesn’t. If he had drawn 10 walks instead of 5 over the past month, you’d say: even with some BACON and HRCON regression, Freeman’s still hitting around .260/.340/.440, which would be just fine. But if his BACON, and in turn, batting average drop to a more repeatable level, all of the sudden he’s slugging .440 with a sub-.300 on-base average, and a contender just can’t have that from their first baseman.
Basically, I’m here to remind you that while Freeman has been great over the past month and we should all be thankful for what he’s done, he’s far from a finished product and is still learning, so keep expectations in check going forward. I wouldn’t rule out another slump, nor would I rule out another tear like he’s on right now after said slump. The same guy that has hit .302/.345/.528 over the past month hit .243/.326/.367 over the season’s first two months. He’s perfectly capable of doing both again.