Atlanta Braves First Basemen Frederick Charles Freeman will be entering into his ninth season in the Major Leagues at age 28. Now through his age 27 season Freeman has been a top notch producer in the MLB. Freeman missed a significant portion of the 2017 season due to an injury after being hit by a pitch in mid May. However, prior to that was being spoken of as a potential MVP candidate if his performance continued. Freeman would end up playing in 117 games for the Braves while also sacrificing of himself to move over and play third base. Freeman hadn’t played third since early on in Atlanta’s minor league system however because of the acquisition of Matt Adams during Freeman’s time on the DL he made the move to third.
Freeman does not receive any assistance from the defensive metrics where he is seen as at best an average defender. However, average means he’s not going to hurt your team there as some others who man that position might. Freeman’s value obviously comes from his offense and that is where he truly shines. And shines as one of the only lights in the darken lineup inhabiting “Sun Trust Park”.
In 2017 Freeman hit 28 homeruns and had 71 RBI’s, again in a injury shorten season. However, the stats that should bring a smile to all Braves fans are his OBP & SLG percentages. In 2017 Freeman’s OBP & SLG percentages were .403/.586 respectively. What makes these percentages so important are the deeper metric numbers that accompany them. When looking at FanGraphs some of the numbers and abbreviations can make the page seem a bit daunting however they give a deeper and more complete view of what a players season truly consisted of all around. Z0-Swing % and Z-Contact % are important advanced metrics to keep an eye on. Freeman’s percentages in the categories have been trending upward and reaching the 84.2% and 83.3% in 2017. If you are unsure what these statistics are it is actually quite simple. As defined by FanGraphs Z-Swing% is the (Inside the Zone Swing Percentage): Swings at pitches inside the zone divided by pitches inside the zone. Likewise Z-Contact% is the (Inside the Zone Contact Percentage): Contact made inside the zone divided by swings inside the zone.
Freeman like a lot of players in the MLB right now have began to increase their launch angle in hopes of getting the ball in the air and thus hitting more homeruns and in general hitting for more power. Freeman’s career high in homeruns came in 2016 when he hit 34. In 2017, again in a shortened campaign, Freeman hit 28. In 2016 Freeman played in 158 games and had 693 Plate Appearances hitting the aforementioned 34 homeruns. While in 2017 in 117 games and only 514 Plate Appearances Freddie hit 28. The difference came in the approach, the approach of looking to hit homeruns proved to be a successful one and will more than likely continue as Freeman’s fly ball percentage increased from 35.6% in 2015 up to 40.6% in 2017. While 5% may not seem like much it is a significant change. And the change goes deeper than just a change in his fly ball percentage as previously stated it is a fundamental change to hit for more power and that is addressed by his increased ISO percentage. ISO as defined by FanGraphs is the Average number of extra bases per at bat, calculated several ways such as SLG minus AVG. This adjustment is a core change as Freeman’s ISO percentages from his rookie season in 2010 through 2015 have never cracked a .200 average. However, in 2016 Freeman’s ISO percentage went up to .267 and in 2017 up to a whopping .280.
85% points from just 2 years prior is a dramatic change. Yet this type of performance has become a standard practice in the MLB. Future projections can always be a bit dicey but Freeman will continue driving the ball in the air and give the Braves a 30+ homerun performance in 2018. The fly ball revolution will continue in Atlanta and if Freeman can stay healthy look for an MVP caliber season coming in 2018.