Which version of Freddie Freeman we see at the plate depends on one thing: whether there’s a runner on base.
Freeman is hitting .223 with a 21% strikeout rate with the bases empty, but .381 with a 7% strikeout rate with at least one runner on. It gets even better with a runner in scoring position, when his KO rate goes down to 4%. That all translates to a .843 OPS without a runner and .956 with in 2021.
And while most players improve slightly with runners on base — last year, the Majors posted a collective .710 OPS with empty bases and .751 with runners on — Freeman’s numbers are almost unheard of. The Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm Jr. has similar numbers but falls below the 75-plate-appearance minimum that MLB.com’s Mike Petriello used in his analysis.
Freeman knows he’s hot or cold depending on the running situation, and it might be because of his approach.
“Sometimes with nobody on base, I think, ‘Well, maybe if I hit the ball in the gap...’” Freeman said. “Obviously that usually never works, because when I try to do too much, that never works for me.”
The shift may also play a part: Freeman sees a shift 84% of the time with the bases empty, far higher than the league-average of 62% for fellow left-handed hitters. As Petriello points out, not only does that make a single less valuable in general — it also makes them harder to come by.
“My approach is always to left-center, shortstop area,” Freeman said. “But maybe with guys on base and the shift, I’m more homed in to just taking the single.”
Petriello breaks down Freddie’s odd stats further here.
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