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Freddie Freeman: How to avoid a slump

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What if I told you that over the past two years, there was a player who had only once hit under .271 for an entire month, and that player was not ranked in the top 10 fantasy hitters in baseball.

Brian Garfinkel

What if I told you that over the past two years, their was a player who had only once hit under 271 for an entire month, and that player was not ranked in the top 10 fantasy hitters in baseball.

That's 12+ total months of at least above average hitting folks, and he's doing it with power, on a good team.  Here you have it; Freddie Freeman is a stone cold lock to be a fantasy machine next year.

When I look at baseball players, I generally acknowledge two aspects of their game.  The physical aspect, so tool grades, and various metrics that can show me how hard someone throws, how far the ball gets hit, how fast they run, and the mental side of the game, which in fantasy is basically their approach at the place, ability to steal a high percentage of bases,  or ability to use scouting reports as a pitcher.

Long story short, Freddie Freeman has a great approach.  Last year he had the 38th highest K/BB of .62, and of the 37 before him, he was the only person to strike out over 20% of the time.  While striking out more than the rest isn't winning anyone bragging rights, it helps illustrate how good of an eye he has at the plate, 12.7 BB%, good for 11th in the league, which boosts his high K/BB.

As simple as this sounds, Freeman knows to swing at strikes (Z-Swing%), take balls (O-Swing%), get a himself ahead in counts by having a lower than average first pitch strike percentage (F-Strike%), and what he does with those balls is the reason pitchers are so afraid of Freddie.

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Season

Team

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

Zone%

F-Strike%

2014

Braves

31.10%

79.60%

50.10%

39.30%

59.20%

2014

Average

31.30%

65.60%

46.70%

44.90%

60.60%

Now you would think that teams would adjust to Freddie and start throwing more strikes, the problem for those teams is that Freddie is the one who has been adjusting.  He has lowered his chase rate and is swinging at fewer strikes than ever.  When a talented guy like Freeman who already had a knack for putting the bat on the ball, starts chasing less, he starts hitting more, and by more I mean this.

Season

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB

2011

1.23

23.00%

42.40%

34.60%

4.70%

14.00%

2012

1.01

26.00%

37.10%

36.90%

7.70%

14.80%

2013

1.08

26.70%

38.20%

35.20%

2.60%

15.00%

2014

1.13

31.00%

36.60%

32.50%

2.60%

11.90%

Total

1.11

26.70%

38.60%

34.70%

4.40%

14.00%

Anybody who hits more than 25% line drives is hanging out with the elite line drive hitters in baseball.  Freeman led the MLB in line drive percentage and had a 2.5% lead on second place Nick Castellanos this year.  He's peppering every nook and cranny field with line drive hits, and blending a nice mix of fly balls and groundballs, making him an unpredictable hitter at the plate.  His extremely low infield fly ball percentage, top 10 among players with 550+ PAs (just a personal opinion of what a full season of ABs should be at bare minimum), further proves that he is just pounding strikes that are thrown to him.  Every red dot on this map is a line drive.

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net (these guys do awesome research):

Freddie Freeman Spray Chart

And this is what it looks like when you have an exceptionally good eye and approach.

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:

Freddie Freeman percentage swing/pitch

So Freeman is a damn good player who is going to hit for a whole season, and give you steady production, reliable players like this is awesome, and even more valuable in H2H leagues.

The argument against Freeman has been that he doesn't hit enough homers, and while few 1B are stealing bases for you, he isn't swiping bases either.  Earning him a label as a no power/no speed first baseman.  My reply to that is, while he only hit 18 home runs and slugged 461, much more importantly he was hitting the ball very hard and very far last year.  Last year his average home run and fly ball distance was 297.15 ft.  That's good for 28th furthest in baseball.  HE WAS CRUSHING THE BALL, it just didn't fly over the fence at as high of a rate as the other guys that were near his average home run and fly ball distance.  More homers may just be a product of more balls inside next year, and if he doesn't hit more home runs, he's still producing a lot of runs and RBI on a team that really underachieved at the plate last year.  Something I'd like to add, Freeman just turned 25 in September.  When young guys like this are hitting homers to all fields, I get the feeling that there could be more to come in the future.

Freeman Oppo homer

Freddie Freeman home run to center

Freeman homer over the high wall in Philly

Freddie Freeman home run to center

Home run out of SF

Freeman home run out of SF

So next year, if you have a top 5 pick, don't pick Freeman, but if you are one of those teams that gets the "unlucky pick" at the turn give him a thought.  Realize you that when you're starring at the Adam Jones's, and Jacoby Ellsbury's of the world that Freeman may return better value than those superstars and if the team around him turns their offense back on next year, you could be staring at a 90R and 90RBI player.  While I always think making player comps, here is something I thought many people would enjoy.  Freeman doesn't hit in the same hitters paradise as the man I'm about to show but this year was Freemans age 24 season, his slash was 288/386/461, another talented first basemen in his age 24 season back in 2012 hit 286/359/490 in a much better hitters park.  The other guy also has had great line drive rates high walk rates, and low 20s strike out rates.  That other first basemen is Paul Goldschmidt.

Note: I just went though an entire Freddie Freeman article without making any reference of the Willie Beamen song from Any Given Sunday, and it was hard for me.

Works Cited:

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=5361&position=1B

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/h_spray.php?player=518692&gFilt=&time=month&minmax=ci&s_type=13&startDate=01/01/2014&endDate=10/23/2014&balls=-1&strikes=-1&b_hand=-1

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/h_profile.php?player=518692&time=month&minmax=ci&var=swing&s_type=2&endDate=10/23/2014&startDate=01/01/2014

Home run videos from:

http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2014_1193&type=hitter