Baseball

Braves Fan Favorite: Freddie Freeman

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For the second consecutive decade, the most iconic member of the Atlanta Braves played a corner infield slot. For the 2000s, Chipper Jones was the generic answer to “who is your favorite Brave?” At the ballpark, Turner Field at the time, Jones’ No.10 seemed to outnumber all other jerseys combined.

For Jones’ tenure as the face of the franchise, he dominated. In the 2000s, he slashed .311/.413/.547, good for a 147 OPS+. He launched 273 home runs and 306 doubles for a massive 2,700 total bases. While he made just three All-Star Games in the peace, he was routinely in MVP consideration, finishing in the top 12 in NL MVP voting in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, and 2008. He won a batting title and on-base title in 2008, and he had the NL’s best OPS and OPS+ in 2007.

For the 2010s, Freddie Freeman was the new age version of Jones. The duo shared the diamond in 2010, 2011, and 2012, but the decade belonged to Freeman.

Freeman’s Decade

Freeman only played 20 games in 2010, but he averaged 147 games per season from 2011 to 2019. He played 162 games in 2014 and 2018, aligning with two of his four All-Star appearances. In the decade, Freeman slashed .293/.379/.504 for an OPS+ of 136. Throughout the decade, the mass of No.10 jerseys slowly turned into No.5 jerseys.

After finishing second in 2011 NL Rookie of the Year voting to his teammate Craig Kimbrel, Freeman became one of the premier first basemen in MLB. In 2013, he finished fifth in MVP voting after a 147 OPS+ season. He had an excellent slash line of .319/.396/.501. He launched 52 extra-base hits, and he drove in 109 runs. 2013 marked Freeman’s first of nine consecutive seasons with an OPS+ of 130 or higher, and he has a chance to extend the streak to 10 in 2022.

Perhaps Freeman’s best season of the decade was 2016. He racked up 6.3 bWAR and finished sixth in NL MVP voting. He had an OPS+ of 157, finishing with a .302/.400/.569 slash line. He had an otherworldly 83 extra-base hits, leading the National League.

Freeman wrapped up the decade with All-Star nods in 2018 and 2019. He finished fourth in MVP voting in 2018, helping the Braves to an unexpected division title. In 2019, Freeman and Braves returned to the playoffs. Freeman finished eighth in MVP voting. In 2018, he earned his first Gold Glove, and he earned his first Silver Slugger in 2019. He also made the inaugural All-MLB Team 2 in 2019.

Another Decade?

Freeman entered his age-30 season in 2020. He was nothing short of sensational with a ridiculous .341/.462/.640 slash line. He had an OPS of 1.102, and he had an OPS+ of 187. While this did occur in a shortened season, Freeman mashed to a legendary degree. He led the Majors in runs and doubles, and he finished second in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ to Juan Soto.

Freeman’s 2020 season hit a snag in the playoffs as he struggled in the first two rounds of the playoffs. However, the Braves persevered and swept the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins. In the NLCS, the Braves’ first since 2001, Freeman had his best-ever playoff performance. He launched a pair of home runs en route to a .360/.448/.720 slash line. However, the Braves blew a 3-1 lead and fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

2021:

Freeman started the year on the cooler side, and he entered May 8 with a .733 OPS. However, Freeman homered on May 8, and he did not look back. For the rest of the season, Freeman posted a .935 OPS. He finished the season with a strong .300/.393/.503 slash line, posting an OPS+ of 133. He led the NL in runs again, and he had 58 extra-base hits. He won his third consecutive Silver Slugger, and he made his fifth All-Star Game.

By the time October rolled around, Freeman was back in his groove. Freeman had a monster playoff run for the World Series champs, launching five home runs and a trio of doubles. He drew 12 walks, and he had an OPS of .996 in all three series. His lowest slugging percentage in a series was .615. In that series, he launched a go-ahead home run off Josh Hader to propel the Braves to the NLCS.

In his World Series debut, Freeman slashed .318/.360/.636, and he homered in Game 6. With that home run, he ended the playoffs with a .304/.420/.625 slash line. During the World Series, Freeman was second on the Braves in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

What Does the Future Hold?

Freeman is currently a free agent. The Braves were seemingly playing hardball with Freeman before the lockout. While they cannot officially negotiate with him at the moment, he must be Atlanta’s No.1 priority when the lockout ends. Sure, he plays first base. Sure, he is entering his age-32 season. There are risks, but Freeman had another dominant season, and his batted-ball data says that he could be even better.

For the seventh year in a row, Freeman finished in the top-five percentile in xwOBA. He finished in the 100th percentile in expected batting average, 97th percentile in expected slugging percentage, 90th percentile in expected isolated power, and 99th percentile in expected on-base percentage. He again finished with excellent strikeout and walk rates. Freeman even finished in the 86th percentile in outs above average. Across the entire league, Freeman finished in the top 10 in xwOBA (tied for fifth), expected batting average (tied for first), expected slugging percentage (tied for sixth), and expected on-base percentage (tied for third). His data compared similarly to AL MVP runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Freeman may have played his final game as a Brave, but Braves Country is universally crossing its fingers. The Braves should lock up Freeman with a solid contract, letting him retire with the Braves after another dominant decade. At Truist Park, Freeman should have a section of the ballpark dedicated to him one day, similar to Jones’ “Chipper’s Corner” underneath the third-base side of the field. Jones played 2,499 games with the Braves. Freeman is up to 1,565, the ninth-most in Braves history.

If Freeman plays for the Braves in a full 2022, he is likely to join several team milestones. He is 31 runs scored away from being the ninth Brave to score 1,000. He is 33 doubles away from 400. He is 66 total bases away from 3,000. Freeman is 29 home runs away from 300. He is also 59 runs batted in away from 1,000. Hopefully, he will reach all of those milestones with the Braves, and he should reach 2,000 hits late in the 2023 season.


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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.