Freddie Freeman is an absolute monster of a hitter who is in the middle of another outstanding season. There is absolutely no disputing that.
Despite only playing in 90 games this season, Freeman has posted a 3.9 fWAR which would be good for top 25 in all of baseball amongst hitters if he had enough at-bats to qualify despite playing at a position that gives him basically no defensive boost (well, he played there most of the time anyways). His wRC+ of 159 would put him in the top 10 hitters in baseball...again, if he qualified for such things.
When you see a player who has posted a .313/.411/.611 slash line with 24 homers, that is a guy that any team would want to run out there every day for the foreseeable future. I get that, I truly do. I also know that this is a team that wants fans to come to their lovely new ballpark in its first season and given the team’s struggles in the win-loss column, Freddie is one of the biggest draws the Braves have.
I understand these things....I do.
All of that said, the Braves are doing a disservice to Freddie and the team in light of Freeman’s recent comments regarding the state of his wrist and it’s effects on his performance. When Freddie first described his wrist as like swinging a “wet newspaper”, our own Demetrius Bell covered his thoughts on what the Braves should do with Freddie. Unsurprisingly, the fact that the Braves have continued to play Freddie daily puzzles DB as well as many others in light of the fact that his wrist has gotten appreciably worse as the season has gone one since his return.
This isn’t just a player saying he has been battling through weakness in his hand/wrist...there is reason to believe that the injury has adversely altered his production on the field (with a couple of caveats). His production post-injury is down across the board, especially when it comes to his power including home runs, RBIs, wRC+, slugging percentage, and hard hit ball percentage (and not just tiny drop-offs either). Now, to be fair, we are dealing with sample sizes of a bit over 40 games on either side of those splits, so the usual small sample size warnings apply here. It is also true that Freddie’s numbers pre-injury were unbelievably good, so a certain amount of regression is to be expected. Freddie is great...but he isn’t Ted Williams.
Despite all of this, even AFTER Freddie’s recent comments about his wrist (let alone the comments he made to reporters earlier this season where he said his wrist was only at 85-90%), the Braves continue to run him out there. The team has said that team doctors have advised Freddie to rest but because he is in no pain and he wants to be out there, Freddie is still playing. They are doing this despite having a fine replacement in Matt Adams sitting on the roster who has already played ably in Freeman’s absence AND they did not trade because, presumably, he could be of greater value on the team versus whatever return they could get for him on the trade market.
Freddie Freeman is a great baseball player and I am a mediocre baseball writer, but he is not a medical doctor nor am I for that matter. However, the decision to play a player who has a clear health issue that is getting worse even without an MRI or CT that says “this is getting worse” should not be in the hands of that player. The Braves’ medical team and the front office need to make the hard decision to rest Freddie and get him healthy going into 2018.
This is a team that desperately needs a healthy Freddie Freeman next season. There are holes to fill to be sure, but help is coming from the minors and it is starting to bear fruit already. The Braves are also a team that is positioned well financially and in terms of prospect currency to make some moves in the offseason that could make some real improvements to the roster. A healthy Freddie Freeman is absolutely critical to this team even if he is upset that the Braves sit him to be cautious and safe with his recovery.
Even if the Braves’ doctors say that he can’t do anything while playing to make the injury “worse” in terms of tearing or breaking something, Freddie’s current course is most certainly not allowing it to get better. The Braves are not playing for a playoff spot or anything beyond draft position anymore. There is help on the roster to lessen the blow of losing Freddie. Let him get right again and get him out of his own way....even if he is still a monster when he isn’t 100%.