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Freddie Freeman and the Beauty of Small Sample Sizes

Freddie Freeman went 0 for 4 last night with one strikeout. With the way Freeman has been playing lately, 0 for 4 feels like more of a shock than 3 for 4 with a home run. This rarity of a game for Freeman sent his batting average down to .407. No, I’m being serious. His batting average actually DROPPED to .407. He’s been on a historic tear to start to start the season and there doesn’t seem to be a solution to get this guy out. If you think Freeman will hit over .400 all year, then you are going to be disappointed, but let’s not skip to the future just yet. While the sample size has been extremely small so far, it gives us some amazing statistics that we can drool over for the time being.

One of the more impressive things Freeman has done this year is hit LHP better than RHP. He certainly handled lefties pretty well last year, but not like he has in his early 2017 campaign. As of the time I am writing this article, Freeman is hitting .455 against lefties and .395 against righties. For those that favor advanced stats, he has a wRC+ of 304 against LHP and a 245 wRC+ against RHP. To put that in comparison, Bryce Harper had a 170 wRC+ against LHP and a 209 wRC+ against RHP in his MVP campaign in 2015. Digging deeper into Freeman’s success, you can see he has been squaring up almost everything he has seen this year. According to FanGraphs, his Soft/Med/Hard hit percentage is at 9.8%/46.3%/43.9%. In 2016 Freeman had similar numbers of 12.5%/44.0%/43.5%. With such similar lines, what has changed for Freeman to allow him to increase his production in nearly every stat? One factor would certainly be the Braves move to the suburbs, as SunTrust park has a shorter distance to right-center field with a 15 foot difference, and a shorter distance to the right field foul pole with a 5 foot difference. Freeman must be ecstatic about the change (although fly ball pitcher Julio Teheran may have a different opinion), and he is certainly taking advantage of it with a slugging of a whopping .852 on the year.

As referenced earlier in the article, Freeman will eventually regress back to his normal self, as one of the top 5 hitters in the MLB. One thing bound to regress will be his BABIP. BABIP stands for batting average on balls in play, meaning how often a batted ball falls for a hit. This is often referred to as the “luck factor”, and as expected, Freeman’s is through the roof. His BABIP is currently sitting at .457. Last year’s leader in BABIP was DJ LeMahieu with .388. Dansby Swanson has had a very tough start to his rookie campaign, only slashing .131/.151/.197, but many of that could be chalked up to his BABIP of .159. Like Freeman, Swanson will eventually have his “luck” regress to the mean. While Freddie has gotten luckier so far this year than anyone in baseball last year, I am in no way saying his start should be devalued. He has been an awesome hitter to all fields so far, and he is crushing it just as hard as any slugger in the league. Freeman certainly passes the eye test, and his numbers are something that all baseball fans should respect and enjoy.

Wes Schatten
Wes Schatten is a die hard Braves fan who is currently attending North Atlanta High School. Wes hopes to study sports journalism after he graduates from high school.
http://mlbmayhem.com

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