Atlanta Braves first baseman and reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman is having a very unlucky season so far.
While the Atlanta Braves have been agonizingly frustrating to watch all year, Freddie Freeman has been mired in a very long slump. He has put up some very un-Freeman-like hitting numbers this year, despite statistics saying this should not be happening.
On the year, the face of the Braves has hit just .229, a far cry from a season ago in which he hit .341 with 13 HRs and 53 RBIs in the shortened 60-game season. He also began the month of May going hitless in his first 22 at-bats.
Ironically, Freddie does have a .358 on-base percentage, a .807 on-base plus slugging percentage, and a 114 OPS+ this year, as well as 13 HRs and 31 RBIs. Also, according to Baseball Savant, Freeman’s expected batting average (xBA) is .297.
However, if you ask Freddie Freeman himself, he would tell you he could care less about any of these “should be this or that” stats. He had this to say in an article written by Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution while referring to a recent talk he had with his dad:
"“I was talking to my dad last night and he was like, ‘Freddie, you’ve got to be positive.’ That’s the hardest thing in this game. You go up there and hit (the) ball hard, you make a right turn back to the dugout. So he’s just being positive. He goes, ‘It can’t statistically stay like this for six months.’ He’s like, ‘Freddie, I think you’re like 30 balls hard hit.’ He’s trying to give me all the numbers that make me feel better. Being a dad, you know. I’m just staring at him on the FaceTime, like, fuming through the phone because I don’t want to hear that. I don’t. I’d rather hit the ball 42 mph and get a hit.”"
It’s completely understandable why Freddie would be frustrated. After all, he is doing his job of hitting the ball hard, but always comes up short of actually getting a hit, which almost sounds like an oxymoron.
Braves legend Chipper Jones spoke about the root of Freeman’s struggles this season, which might include the birth of his two children this past offseason as well as his contract expiring at the end of the season, in an article by David O’Brien of The Athletic back in May 2021 (paid subscription only):
"“It’s an adjustment off the field for him right now…I don’t know what kind of toll that’s taking on him, if any. He’ll never admit to it. Fact of the matter is, Freddie hasn’t been Freddie. OK, he’s got 11 homers, that’s great. But we need more. He’s the MVP, he’s the guy, and we need him to be the same guy he’s always been.”“But I told him, I was like, ‘Hey, I hit .245 one year. I mean, it happens.’ You just can’t find it sometimes. But I’m still confident in the fact, he’s going to get it back. Somebody’s gonna (pay). Whenever you go for an 0-for-22 or a 2-for-30 or something like that, you’re gonna go through another 30 at-bats where you get 15, 20 knocks and they can’t get you out.”"
If history proves anything, Chipper’s last line about “no one getting you out” will apply for Freddie. From April 4-26th, 2016, Freddie had a .203 batting average and a .275 slugging percentage.
He would go on to finish the year with a .302 BA with 34 home runs and 91 RBIs. Granted, April 4-26 is a very small sample size, but you get the point.
Freddie is inevitably going to get to a place this year where he starts to heat up, and not a single pitcher in baseball will be able to get him out. When Freddie does this, I believe we will start to see a difference in the Braves results.
Freddie Freeman is undeniably the heart and soul of the team. He is beloved by teammates and fans alike, and once he gets rolling, there’s no telling what kind of potential this team will have (fingers crossed).