NL MVP Case: Braves’ Freddie Freeman

In the first installment of this series I’ll be doing over the next few weeks where PSE looks at MVP candidates down the stretch, we’ll look at Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.

A model of consistency, baseball fans tend to take for granted just how great Freddie Freeman truly is. He has a 38.1 BBRef WAR and 37.5 fWAR. Over his first 11 seasons, he has over 1500 hits, 238 homeruns, averaging 99 RBI per 162 and has a .295/.382/.509 lifetime slash. Every year, he’s quiet and does his thing in the heart of the Braves order. His home isn’t anything fancy, but rather a Chophouse in the stadium.

This year, though, it’s Freddie who’s broken away from the pack. The four time All-Star came into Spring Training 2.0 having just dealt with COVID-19, which he claims was one of the most difficult things he’s gone through. He even stated “I prayed ‘please don’t take me.'”

He was ready in time for Opening Day and hasn’t looked back. The Braves have the best lineup in baseball, top to bottom, with seven All-Stars (Freeman, 2B Ozzie Albies. OFs Adam Duvall, Ender Inciarte, Marcell Ozuna, Nick Markakis and Ronald Acuna) as well as third baseman Austin Riley, catcher Travis d’Arnaud and shortstop Dansby Swanson. However, they’ve needed every player in the lineup to step up as the rotation went to shambles. Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Cole Hamels, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb was projected to be one of MLBs top rotations, yet it hasn’t panned out. Fried, who makes his return from a brief IL stint tomorrow, has been stellar. Otherwise, Hamels has made one start. Soroka is out for the season on a freak ankle injury. Newk and Folty? They performed so bad that they were designated for assignment. They’ve been reliant on pitchers such as Robbie Erlin, Tommy Milone and Josh Tomlin.

The lineup has been great enough to still have a +44 run differential and win the division a third consecutive year. It’s anchor? Freddie Freeman. Heading into Thursday’s off-day, the best first baseman in baseball continues to rake. He is first in NL Batting Average (.352), OBP (.465), RBI (46), Doubles (18) and second in Hits (63), Runs (43), SLG (.648) and OPS (1.113). He’s hit 11 homeruns on the season, walked 36 times to only 28 strikeouts, and has a 188 OPS+ (the best in the league). You name any major category outside of stolen bases and homeruns, he is either first or second.

Let’s take a look at how his competition is playing down the stretch:

How would this season measure up over a 162?

Because I’m a sucker for Freeman highlights:

The tweet right above this excerpt brings up an interesting point: clutch factor. He has a 1.264 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position. He has a 1.037 OPS and three homeruns in tied games. Five of his homeruns have come with the team down one run. Seven of his homeruns have come with the team down two or less. He has a higher OPS when the team is behind than when the team is ahead. All of his hits and runs count as they all come in close ballgames. His OPS in high leverage situations is higher than it is in lower leverage situations. 14 of his hits have been pulled, another 14 have been to the opposite field while 35 of them have been up the middle. He sprays the ball everywhere making him impossible to shift this season. His .455 wOBA and 186 wRC+ is second in the NL to only Nationals’ Juan Soto, who has 67 fewer at bats heading into today.

Freddie Freeman has been everything you want out of a major league hitter in 2020. He gets on base, he hits it to both gaps, he hits it over the wall, he hits for average, he hits for power and he does it all in the clutch. Will Freddie Freeman finally win an MVP award? Tweet me your thoughts @TheJameus.

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