Welcome to an offseason series we’re calling Dodger Greats, Then and Now. Many of this year’s Dodgers had excellent individual seasons (with a few exceptions, of course) despite the dramatic ending, so we’re taking a look at how their historical counterparts performed in banner seasons of their own. This exercise isn’t meant to declare a winner at each position and crown anyone “the best” — it’s more of a look at how the game has changed over the decades, and a preview of who we might expect to see in future conversations of Dodger legends. Here we go, and feel free to drop suggestions for a future article in the comments.
First Base: Freddie Freeman and Gil Hodges
True, we could have chosen Steve Garvey, but we’re going with Gil Hodges in honor of his Hall of Fame induction this year and taking a look at his 1954 season in comparison to Freddie Freeman’s 2022, his first with Los Angeles. Hodges, age 30, played in 154 games total, while Freeman, 32, played in 159.
A quick note on each player’s home parks: Ebbets Field, where Hodges played his home games, held 25,000 fans; Dodger Stadium’s capacity is 56,000. The dimensions of each park are largely similar, though the outfield at Ebbets could be as much as 30 feet shallower in right center and right field.
What could you expect when Freeman and Hodges got to the plate? In 678 plate appearances, Hodges had exactly double the number of home runs as Freeman: 42 compared to 21. But Freeman, with 708 plate appearances, crushed it when it came to doubles and logged 47 total compared to Hodges’ 23. Freeman was also far more likely to steal bases and successfully bagged 13, while Hodges played it safe and only took three.
Here’s a more complete picture of Hodges and Freeman at bat:
Hodges vs Freeman on offense
League Leads and Career Highs at the Plate
Freddie Freeman and Gil Hodges were both All Stars during their respective seasons. They also had some notable distinctions when it came to their performance throughout the year.
Freeman led the National League in three offensive categories this year:
- Plate appearances, 708
- Runs, 117
- On base percentage, .407
He was just shy of leading the Majors in batting average, losing out to Jeff McNeil of the Mets by a hair, but he did top the charts on hits (199) and doubles (47).
Hodges led the National League in games played, with 154 total, and all of the Majors with sacrifice flies, clocking in at 19. He did much better when it came to personal records instead. In 1954, Hodges had career highs in the following categories:
- Home runs, 42
- RBI, 130
- Hits, 176
- Batting average, .304
- Slugging percentage, .579
- OPS, .952
- Total bases, 335
And for comparison, here were the career highs for Freeman:
- Plate appearances, 708
- Hits, 199
- Doubles, 47
- Stolen bases, 13
Freeman and Hodges had nearly identical fielding percentages at first base: .996 and .995, respectively. When it comes to fielding runs above average (FRAA)—which compares the number of plays a fielder made to the average number made at his position—we’ve only got career numbers for Hodges. Freeman has a -39.9 score for his 13-season career, an average of -3.09 each season. That’s not ideal, according to Baseball Prospectus, which lists a -5.2 as “poor.” As for Hodges? His FRAA was 51.0 in 17 seasons (excluding his first, 1943, in which he only played one game for Brooklyn) for an average of 3.0 yearly, approaching the “great” target of 5.5.
So, there you have a few interesting insights for Freeman and Hodges, two Dodgers to make an impression at first base. Got any favorite memories of our featured fielders? Who should we talk about next? The floor is yours, friends.