Freddie Freeman has a chance to be among 10 best in Braves history
With Freddie Freeman’s remarkable consistency over the last 6-7 years, will he one day become one of the 10 greatest players in the Atlanta Braves history?
The 2019 season was yet another strong campaign in what has been a consistent 10-year run for the Atlanta Braves’ first baseman.
In June of 2017, the Atlanta Braves selected a tall and lanky kid from El Modena High School, a school nestled in the outskirts of Orange, Calif. — 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles and just a 20-minute stroll from the Pacific Ocean.
The Braves chose Freddie Freeman in the 2nd round of that 2007 MLB Draft, and at a time when the sport’s coverage of amateur prospects was nowhere near the exclusive level it is today… it was still widely decided that Freeman was destined to be great.
Perfect Game’s 2006 Showcase Report on Freeman read:
"“The ball makes a different sound off his bat than with most players. Freeman is not only a power hitter, but a high average hitter as well. He has a short stroke and is much stronger than he looks. He is the type of hitter that can miss the barrel and is still plenty strong enough to not just get the ball over or through the infield, but he can still get into the gaps when he doesn’t square up the barrel. To watch him on one of his better days makes a scout imagine 40 dingers in the Big Leagues.”"
There’s no doubt that the Atlanta Braves struck gold when they selected Freeman, and I think I speak for us all when I say it has been an incredible career to watch.
Over his 10 years in the big leagues, Freeman has morphed into an All-Star and MVP candidate, and even more impressive… a consistent one.
Several days ago, Alan Carpenter delved into Freeman’s 2019 season, highlighting another strong year for the Braves, as well as providing an update on Freeman’s recent elbow surgery, which took place on October 18.
The consensus is that he will be a full go for the 2020 season.
But what I want to look at today is Freeman’s standing amongst the all-time greats in Braves history.
There’s an opportunity for Freeman to be more than just the best first baseman — he passed Fred Tenney, a Braves (or Beaneaters) first baseman in the late 1800s, in Baseball Reference offensive WAR this past season — in Braves history, but one of the best… period.
Back in February, I wrote up a 10,000-word all-time top 10 WAR leaderboard for the Braves franchise, a list filled with Hall of Famers (except for one, Andruw Jones).
Braves Top 10 All-time WAR
|1||OF, Hank Aaron||136.0|
|2||3B, Eddie Mathews||94.3|
|3||3B, Chipper Jones||84.8|
|4||RHP, John Smoltz||78.3|
|5||LHP, Warren Spahn||74.3|
|6||RHP, Greg Maddux||72.9|
|7||RHP, Kid Nichols||72.8|
|8||RHP, Phil Niekro||72.6|
|9||OF, Andruw Jones||64.3|
|10||LHP, Tom Glavine||54.9|
|—||1B, Freddie Freeman||34.6|
*Using FanGraphs WAR
And after reading Alan’s post, it got me wondering how close Freeman was to breaking into the list.
He’s obviously not there yet, but it’s definitely doable…
What it’s going to take
As you saw in the previous slide, my Atlanta Braves all-time leaderboard earlier this year was based on FanGraphs WAR.
There are currently three well-known flavors of WAR on the internet, from popular sites like FanGraphs (fWAR), Baseball Reference (bWAR), and Baseball Prospectus (WARP).
I’m not as familiar with WARP and since my original list was compiled from fWAR, then that’s what I’m going to go with here.
(While the bWAR version of the Braves all-time leaderboard is very similar, each players’ career WAR value varies from that of FanGraphs. A list from Baseball Reference can be compiled just as easily).
In 10 seasons thus far, Freeman has accumulated 34.6 WAR, with a career average of 3.46 WAR per season.
Since 2013, Freeman has been a lock for at least 4 WAR (save for 2015: 3.3).
Of course, this consistency is good, as Freeman, who turns 31 next September, is in his prime years and has averaged just under 5 WAR (4.95) over his last four seasons — lining him up for a rather historic Braves career.
Looking at the Braves top 10 leaderboard, the magic number for Freeman is 54.9 WAR — Tom Glavine‘s WAR total with the Braves, ranking No. 10 all-time.
Basic math tells us that Freeman is still 20.3 WAR behind Glavine, which is essentially six more seasons (or 5.8), albeit that’s when calculating Freeman’s pace based on his 10-year average, listed above.
Freeman’s single-season high in WAR came in 2016 when he tallied 6.1 WAR (.302 AVG / 34 HR), and he’s coming off a 4.0 WAR season (.295 AVG / 38 HR) in 2019, his third-best year (when counting ties).
Sure, Freeman has yet to secure what he’s been chasing over the last 5-6 years, an MVP, as he’s finished 5th, 23rd, 6th, 4th, and most likely at least in the top 10 again in 2019.
And while an MVP year surely wouldn’t hurt, it definitely isn’t a requirement for Freeman to reach that 54.9 mark.
All Freeman needs to do is continue the consistency and remain healthy, and by the time he wraps up his Braves career, he will go down as one the best 10 players to ever play for the organization.