Friday, June 3, 2016

Freddie Freeman's Power Numbers are Fine

Keith Allison via Flickr
Creative Commons
A lot has changed since the average first baseman posted a .207 isolated slugging in the year 2000. First base, like the game in general, has seen a reduction in power numbers that has coincided with a crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs. Subsequently, pitching numbers are through the roof. K's are up nearly 5% since 2000 while the league wOBA has fell 25 points.

This is not news, but our expectations for production at traditionally "slugger" positions like first base has seemingly not evolved. Why do I believe that? One of the common criticisms thrown Freddie Freeman's way is that he lacks the expected power of a first baseman. Sure, if you expect your first baseman to smack 35 homeruns a year, then Freeman absolutely won't reach that arbitrary total for you. But is there any element of truth to the idea that Freeman's power is a concern - especially moving forward into his major deal?

Let's look again at isolated slugging - or ISO. While first basemen still have better power numbers than any other position, it has not been immune to decline. For instance, going back to that .207 ISO in 2000, the average modern first baseman has an ISO in the high .170's since 2011. Now, back to Freeman, whose first full-time season was - interestingly enough - 2011. His career ISO is .181. In a raw power sense, even though he's belted just 113 career homeruns, Freeman's ability to produce extra base hits is right in line with the average first baseman.

However, the Braves didn't pay Freeman a small fortune to be average. Here is where Freeman begins to made roads to showing that he's an above-average option at his position. While Freeman ranks in the 20's among top first baseman in ISO since 2011, he ranks ninth in wOBA - a much more important number as far as offensive production is concerned. In addition to his .361 wOBA, he carries a 130 wRC+, which puts him in line with a group of productive first baseman like Brandon Belt, Chris Davis, and Adrian Gonzalez. Certainly, it's not comparable to Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, or Jose Abreu - but Freeman's offensive numbers are among the best the next group of players can produce.

Fangraphs puts value into dollars and has estimated that Freeman has been worth $113.8M since arriving in the majors. That number takes into account Freeman's overall production and adjusts for position. He is owed $103M through the 2021 season. While he has struggled this season (especially in regards to his contact%), Freeman receives far too much hate for what he brings to the table - often by those that do not adjust their expectations in context to the current baseball product we are watching. When it comes to that, Freeman is one of the Top 10 first baseman in baseball and won't even be 27 until September. There is a good chance he has yet to even reach his prime years.

To borrow from an old meme, Leave Freddie Alone!

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