There’s no better time in the MLB regular season to fiddle around with certain statistics than right now. Players and teams that have gotten off to fast (and slow) starts make for some interesting comparisons — even if it’s only for an incredibly short period of time.
One of those comparisons involves Atlanta Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman. Like a number of hitters, he’s gotten off to a terrific start through 29 plate appearances. His 277 wRC+ is one of the five best in baseball among qualified hitters, as is his wOBA (.598) and fWAR (0.7), while his .474 ISO is a top-10 mark.
What truly jumps off Freeman’s stat page, though, are his walk and strikeout rates — he’s drawn a base on balls 34.5% of the time and has gone down on strikes at just a 10.3% rate.
That walk rate leads baseball — although he’s one of three hitters with a rate above 30.0% entering Friday’s games — but the storyline gets more intriguing when we compare the raw stats up against some ball clubs.
Keeping Pace With the Royals
It’s taken Freeman just 29 plate appearances to draw 10 walks. That just so happens to be the same number of walks the entire Kansas City Royals roster has drawn so far this season, which has taken them 142 plate appearances to accomplish. And if we add in the veteran first baseman’s two intentional walks, he’d be outpacing the 2015 World Series champs.
Needless to say, KC has drawn the fewest walks in the big leagues at this point in the season.
Check out how Freeman compares to the Royals with regard to chase rate (O-Swing%), swing rate on strikes (Z-Swing%), overall contact rate (Contact%), hard-hit rate (Hard%), and swinging-strike rate (SwStr%).
There’s certainly reason to believe that Freeman’s current swing rate on balls in the strike zone will eventually rise, too — nobody swung are more strikes between 2016 and 2017 than him (82.1%). What will be interesting to watch is how his chase rate eventually stabilizes. That number has settled in at just over 32.0% each of the past two seasons.
Since we’re not here to just single out the Royals, Freeman is also not too far behind the Los Angeles Angels (13) in this category, either.
Freeman has always been an above-average contributor for the Braves’ offense throughout his big league career, but things went up a notch in 2016. He put up career-high marks (at the time) across the board, including fWAR (6.1), wRC+ (152), wOBA (.402), home runs (34), RBI (102), ISO (.267), and OPS (.968).
The left-handed slugger actually improved on some of these numbers last year, and probably would’ve accomplished plenty more if he wasn’t limited to just 440 plate appearances (117 games played). Despite being sidelined for a significant chunk of time, he was still worth 4.5 fWAR.
If we look at 2016 and 2017 on a cumulative basis, Freeman’s 10.6 fWAR ranks among the top 15 in all of baseball, with only Joey Votto (11.7) outpacing him at first base.
Legit Shot at MVP Consideration
The consistently elite production from Freeman in recent years has been undeniable, but he’s still not getting the love he deserves. His 2016 performance led to a sixth-place finish in National League MVP voting, while his abbreviated 2017 campaign took him out of the running, even though his numbers were just as good — if not better — than the year prior.
He really shouldn’t be at this point, but this is the exact reason why he was one of our dark horse MVP candidates. It’s certainly tough to elbow your way into this conversation with guys like Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt (plus many others) already at the top of the league, ya know.
It’s only been a week, but Freeman has found a way to distinguish himself among this group. As long as he stays on the field, there’s a good chance that’ll continue, enabling him to get the attention he deserves.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.