Freddie Freeman just completed his fourth full season with the Braves, and with the contract extension he signed before the 2014 season in place, Freeman will be around for many years after the team moves into the Sun Trust Park.
In looking at what Freeman did this past season, several things jump off the stat sheet. First, Freeman appeared in all 162 games of the Braves games this season. He’s averaged 153.3 games per season in his first four seasons, meaning he’s missed only 35 games as a full-time starter.
Also, Freeman had several numbers slip in 2014 from a season ago. His home runs went from 23 in each of the last two seasons to 18 this year. He had 109 runs batted in a year ago, but that dipped down 31 RBI this season to only 78. Freeman’s batting average was down 31 points, his OBP down 10 points and his slugging percentage was down 40 points – making his OPS down 50 points.
The one number that did increase this season was Freeman’s doubles total, which went from 27 in 2013 to 43 this past season. He also doubled his number of triples from two to four.
Freeman really struggled in the second half of the season, and many wondered if he was so emotionally crushed that his buddy, Dan Uggla, was released that it impacted his play. Freeman hit .278 after the All-Star Break after batting .295 in the first half. Freeman’s power disappeared in the second half, as he hit only five home runs compared to his 13 in the first half.
The RBI production from Freeman was split in half from the first part of the season to the second half. He had 52 in the first three months and 26 after the break.
Freeman’s defense was excellent at first base. His fielding percentage went from .993 in 2013 to .996 this season, mainly because his number of errors was split in half from 10 to five.
The Braves made a huge investment in Freeman. He will be paid like he will be the face of this franchise for the next seven years. So these numbers will probably fall short of what the fans’ expectations will be moving forward.
Anyone that is going to be paid $22 million per season at the end of his contract is going to have huge expectations. And the Braves are going to need Freeman to provide more than just numbers. It was unrealistic to ask Freeman to be a leader at the age of 25 this season, but as he continues to get more big league time, and as his salary increases, that expectation will be there whether he likes it or not.
The Braves were concerned this year that Freeman pouted after Uggla was released. They were (and presumably still are) friends, so it was natural for Freeman to be disappointed in Uggla not being around. But how could anyone on that team disagree with the decision to remove Uggla from the roster, considering his struggles? The Braves gave Uggla every chance to get on track, and he simply failed.
The new front office is going to need to find out who will lead this team. And with the contract, Freeman is going to be first in line. The improvement Freeman needs to make on the field statistically pales in comparison to what he needs to do to mature into a leader off the field. Others are going to look up to him as the highest-paid player on the team, whether he likes it or not. The front office and particularly the current manager must have Freeman to answer the calling and to be a leader on the team.
Freeman needs to show more power. He needs to be more consistent. He needs to be a dangerous run-producer. But Freeman needs to take the throne from the too-long-ago departed Chipper Jones as the man on this team. That will be the most intriguing thing to watch for Freeman as he enters the prime of his career.
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Season Review - Freddie Freeman
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