There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with the Braves right now. Austin Riley has come out of the gates on fire and is already starting to garner attention for Rookie of the Year voting. Any rumors of a sophomore slump for Ronald Acuña Jr. are greatly exaggerated. Mike Soroka and Max Fried are starting to make names for themselves, and they’ll be joined by Dallas Keuchel sooner than we all expected.
The point is that there’s plenty to talk about for a team that’s right in the thick of things when it comes to the NL East and the postseason picture in general. One thing that might get lost in the shuffle is the fact that Freddie Freeman is still, well, Freddie Freeman. As we get closer to the All-Star break next month, this feels like as good of a time as any to check on Freddie Freeman and take a look under the hood to see exactly how things are going for him so far.
According to FanGraphs, Freeman’s 2016 season was his magnum opus as he finished the season with a slash line of .302/.400/.569 with a wRC+ of 152, an ISO of .267 and a career-high of 34 home runs. All of this contributed to a 6.1 fWAR season, which is basically the season that Freddie Freeman needed to cement his status as a cornerstone player here after a relatively “slow” 2015 season.
Freddie Freeman is on pace to match and maybe even exceed his numbers from 2016. Through 65 games, he’s currently slashing .311/.401/.598 with a 159 wRC+, a .287 ISO and 18 homers as well. In the interest of transparency, I was thinking of writing an article back in mid-May on Freddie Freeman’s steady success at the plate. I was a bit hesitant to go ahead with it since I figured that it was still early and we still needed more time to see if he could keep this up, or if it was just a hot start We’re now approaching mid-June and his numbers have only gotten better since then.
The power numbers in particular are something to behold. His Isolated Power is currently sitting at .287, which would beat his career high by seven points if we lived in a mythical world where the baseball season ended after 60-something games. He’s currently on track for a career year in homers, since he’s already got 18 right now and it took him 158 games to hit 34 in 2019. He’s mashing at a fantastic rate, and the Braves are reaping the benefits of what is shaping up to be another great season at the plate for Freddie Freeman.
So what’s different? What’s going on here that’s making this such a good year for Freddie? Aside from the fact that the ball itself is apparently in 2017 Mode (which you can see just by looking at the ISO numbers. Freddie Freeman’s .287 so far was enough to place him solidly in the top ten all qualified batters in 2017. Going into this week, the same number had him tied for fourtheenth overall), Freddie is seems to be hitting the ball harder than usual. Going into this season, Freddie’s career high for hard contact percentage was 43.5 percent. Coming into this week’s action, it’s at 50 percent. Also, Freddie’s Barrels per Plate Appearance going into this week had him in 7th place among all batters with 50 Batted Ball Events (as defined by Baseball Savant) and he was not too far off from third place.
Simply put, Freddie Freeman is barreling the ball and hitting it had at a higher rate than what you’d expect from him and he’s already set a high standard for that throughout his career. The proof is in the pudding — he’s been making quality contact with the ball and he’s been thriving at the plate during this season as a result.
What makes this impressive is that he’s been doing this with a .324 BABIP through 64 games. Again, if we lived in a horrible world where the MLB season ended right now, this number would be his lowest BABIP since 2015, which is when he finished the year with a .321 BABIP. None of those numbers are bad in the least bit, but this does open up the possibility for an argument that Freeman has been doing all of this while being slightly unlucky. That means that not only is this production from Freeman not a fluke occurrence for him, but there’s a chance that he could actually get better as the season progresses and his BABIP hopefully improves.
If that’s the case, then this is going to be music to Braves fans’ ears and a terrifying prospect for the rest of the NL East and anybody else in the playoff race if the Braves also happen to be in the Wild Card conversation as the season progresses. Of course, the Braves offense is going to go through their ups and downs throughout the season — as evidenced by what was going on with the team from around mid May until the dawn of June. However, the Braves can at least take solace in knowing that even through the tough times, they can still lean on Freddie Freeman when things get rough.
Freddie Freeman may not be having an eye-popping season when compared to some of the names that you will see on top of your respective WAR leaderboards, but it’s clear that he’s on track to have yet another great season — maybe even his best season yet.