What the Dodgers got in Freddie Freeman in 2022 was not only incredible production and a season worthy of MVP consideration. But Freeman, who signed a six-year, $162 million contract in March, also brought to Los Angeles incredible stability.
Freeman’s lowest OPS for any single month was .804, in August, with every other month at least .850. His lowest on-base percentage in a 2022 month was .379, and his lowest batting average for a month was .299.
He made his sixth career All-Star team, and grounded out in his only at-bat in the midsummer classic at Dodger Stadium. He won National League player of the week three different times, once each in June, July, and September.
Freeman was a top-three finisher in National League Outstanding Player as voted on by fellow players, though the award was won by Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Freeman started the first 141 games of his first season with the Dodgers, first taking a rest day the game after the team clinched the National League West. It was the longest stretch of starts to begin a Dodgers season since Eric Karros started all 162 contests in 1997.
It fit with Freeman’s past as well as his ethos.
“You can be a five-tool player,” Freeman told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times in September. “But if you don’t have the sixth tool of playing every day, what’s the point of the first five tools?”
On the season, Freeman started 159 games. Since the start of the 2018 season, Freeman has missed only 10 games, leading the majors in games played over the last five seasons. During that span, Freeman played in 95 percent of his teams’ defensive innings.
“I don’t come here to sit on the bench and collect a paycheck. I don’t believe in that,” Freeman told Mike Digiovanna and Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times in August. No one in this world comes to work and just sits there. If they did, they’re not going to keep their job, you know?”
Freeman anchored an uncommonly good top third of the Dodgers lineup, along with Mookie Betts and Trea Turner. The Dodgers probably had to pinch themselves that they were even able to get Freeman in the first place.
It was a surprise to Freeman, too. The longtime Braves icon by all rights should have finished his career in Atlanta, but he and the team could not agree on a contract in the years leading up to his free agency. Once the lockout ended in March, Freeman was still expected to re-sign with the Braves right up until they traded for — and then extended — Matt Olson to play first base.
The Dodgers were able to pounce within three days, the versatilityof Max Muncy (and others) affording them to sign a first baseman despite already having one. The shocking exit from the Braves made Freeman’s return to Atlanta in June understandably emotional, with Freeman firing his agency Excel Sports in the days after the series, per a lawsuit filed by Excel against radio host Doug Gottlieb for a bad tweet that Gottlieb later retracted.
The weekend-long outpouring of emotion between Freeman and the Braves was a lot, so much so that Clayton Kershaw told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I hope we’re not second fiddle. It’s a pretty special team over here, too. I think whenever he gets comfortable over here, he’ll really enjoy it.”
Toward the end of the season, Kershaw regretted those comments, telling Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic. “I think I’d be the first to admit that I probably didn’t give him enough of a pass as I probably should,” Kershaw said. “That was my fault that it even got out there like that.”
That rather tame interaction was just about the only slight misstep in an otherwise great first season in Los Angeles for Freeman, who was every bit as good as advertised.
Freeman’s 47 doubles are tied for the fifth-most in a season in Dodgers history, and his career-high also led the majors. Freeman led the majors with 199 hits, another career high and the most by a Dodger since Adrián Beltré in 2004. Freeman led the National League in on-base percentage (.407) and tied or the NL lead with 117 runs scored, along with teammate Betts, whom Freeman drove in 28 times.
Freeman was one of the few Dodgers who hit during the National League Division Series, going 5-for-14 (.357/.500/.786) with three doubles and a Game 2 home run against San Diego.
With Freeman entrenched in the heart of the lineup for the foreseeable future, the Dodgers are in a good place.
Stats: .325/.407/.511, 47 doubles, 21 HR, 100 RBI, 117 runs, 157 wRC+, 7.1 fWAR, 5.9 bWAR
Salary: $27 million, of which $7 million was deferred
Game of the year
On September 10 in San Diego, Freeman had one of his five four-hit games on the season. The first three of those came against Blake Snell, who had his only bad start ever against the Dodgers. Freeman singled home the Dodgers’ first run in the third inning, then his RBI double in the fifth knocked Snell out of the game.
Freeman later hit a two-run home run off Nabil Crismatt, capping a four-RBI contest.
Freeman’s four-hit game also vaulted his league-leading batting average to .330, his highest average since late April. But that specific number also triggered something in my brain, with Freeman establishing yet another link with Eddie Murray, the most similar player for every year of Freeman’s career to date.
Freeman is under contract for five more years and $135 million. He’ll earn $27 million in 2023, of which $7 million is deferred. In all, $57 million of Freeman’s contract is deferred until 2028-2040.