Freeman ready for challenge of sophomore season

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Only two major league rookies hit more home runs in 2011 than did Freddie Freeman, whose 21 matched his age and were more homers than he hit in any minor league season.

But players look at more than home-run totals to gauge power. Freeman, the first Braves rookie to hit 20 homers since Chipper Jones in 1995, did something that made teammates believe he’s only scratched the surface of his power potential.

“Going oppo” is the expression they use. Opposite-field power is seductive stuff.

“When you’re 21 years old and you can go left-center field 10 rows deep, you’re special,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “And he can do that. Like I’ve said, he’s going to have a great career. He’s going to have a big, huge career.”

He was the National League Rookie of the Year runner-up, like his teammate and pal Jason Heyward the year before. Like Heyward, who finished second to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, Freeman had a season that would’ve been good enough to win the award in a typical season.

There was nothing typical in 2011 about fellow Braves rookie Craig Kimbrel, who led major league relievers with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings and shattered the major league rookie saves record with 46, tied him for the NL lead.

Kimbrel got all 32 first-place votes, while Freeman got 21 second-place votes.

“It’s cool just to get some votes,” Freeman said. “I already knew he was going to win.When you break records like that, you deserve it.”

Freeman led NL qualifying rookies in average (.282), on-base percentage (.346), slugging percentage (.448), hits (161), doubles (32) and RBI (.76). He tied for the NL rookie lead in homers and was second in walks (53) and runs (67).

“Tremendous,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I don’t think you could ask for a rookie season to go any better for him. There were some peaks and valleys, but overall it was a great experience for him.”

Freeman hit .214 with no homers and a .283 OBP in his first 13 games, then tore off a 45-game stretch in which he batted .294 with a .365 OBP and five homers. That was followed by another 13-game slide June 7-21, in which he hit .235 with two homers while striking out 24 times in 51 at-bats with only three walks.

“You don’t ever want that, but it happened and you just can’t let it get you down,” said Freeman, who said each time he slumped it was because he became too pull-conscious, trying to hit home runs to right field instead of drive the ball to all fields.

“That’s always the key. Just stay to the middle and use the whole field and I’ll be all right.”

He snapped out of his strikeout-plagued stretch again with a torrid stretch much longer than the slump, batting .354 over his next 38 games with eight homers, 27 RBIs and a .415 OB while striking out just 32 times in 147 at-bats.

That ability to make adjustments is what most impressed Braves veteran Eric Hinske, an American League Rookie of the Year back in 2002 with Toronto.

“Yeah, he had a stretch where he was striking out a little bit,” Hinske said, “but I think his overall numbers speak to what kind of a hitter he is. He’s just a big dude that has an easy approach and uses all fields. It seems like it’s going to be hard for him to struggle. There’s really not a lot to [his swing]. It’s foot down, separate and go after the ball.

“For a big strong guy like that, it’s pretty cool. He gets on the plate, keeps his foot down and just waits for the ball. Sees the ball, controls the depth of it — easy approach. I like how simple he is with it, the way he thinks and what he’s trying to do up there. For how young he is — he’s beyond his years, for sure, in his approach to the game.”

Freeman is 6 feet 5 and uses every bit of that length to his advantage, both in the plate coverage with his swing and defensively with the stretches he makes to prevent errors on throws a little high or wide.

He sometimes does the splits with his long legs, extending as far as possible in order to shorten a throw by a few inches — which can make the difference on a bang-bang play.

“Future Gold Glover, if you ask me,” Hinske said.

McCann said, “His swing is great. He can make adjustments. He’s got some of the best bat speed on this team. And you throw in all these things he does well on the offensive side, he may be equally as good on the defensive side. He’s a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman.”

Freeman spent the offseason working out with McCann and a few other Braves who followed a baseball-specific regimen designed by Atlanta-area trainer Ryan Goldin. It was the most rigorous offseason program Freeman has followed, and he said McCann made sure he stuck with it and called him if he was late for a session.

Freeman added five pounds of muscle, up to 240, but still considers himself a line-drive hitter rather than a home-run hitter. He hopes to win a batting title and Gold Gloves in the future, but said being a home-run leader isn’t a goal.

Asked what he learned about himself last season, he said the realization that he could drive the ball with authority to left and left-center field.

“In the minor leagues I really didn’t hit a lot of opposite-field homers,” he said. “Now I can go out everywhere [hit home runs to any field], so I don’t need to pull it. I can just stay up the middle of the field. I think that’s what I learned the most.

“But [opposing pitchers] are going to make the adjustments. They saw me hit opposite-field home runs last year, so we’ll see how they do this year against me, and I’ll make adjustments against them.”

46 comments Add your comment


February 26th, 2012
7:51 pm

Nice work. Freeman’s a beast. 1st!


February 26th, 2012
8:03 pm

Still wish we had signed Mark Teahen !!!! With surplus of pitchers hope a trade helps strenthen the bench.

Dawgdad (The Original)

February 26th, 2012
8:12 pm

Love Freddie, don’t see any sophomore problems with a fundamentally sound player like him.


February 26th, 2012
8:13 pm

OOPS !! Strengthen !!

Max Sizemore

February 26th, 2012
8:37 pm

Teahen is a mediocre hitter and fielder, and doesn’t move well.


February 26th, 2012
8:45 pm

Good point about the opposite field power. I think a lot of people were surprised by the power. Hopefully he can build on that.


February 26th, 2012
8:50 pm

He can and has played 3b,1b.Rf,Lf,Ph, veteran, great clubhouse guy, and for Liberty Media comes cheap as all the team has to pay is major league minimum salary so the money we save with whomever he replaces could be well spent elsewhere like back up middle infielder !!!!!


February 26th, 2012
9:29 pm

Don’t forget Freddie’s fielding…he saved a ton of throwing errors. He is only going to get better from an offensive and defensive position!

Mike Lum could pick it

February 26th, 2012
9:39 pm

please tell us that the ‘five pounds of muscle’ he added isn’t going to foul him up the way added muscle did to Heyward and Frenchy-couer.
First baseman has to stay quick and agile to make the kind of plays he makes.

Bravo_F 52

February 26th, 2012
9:44 pm

“You just cant let it get you down” M.R.Freeman “He deserved it” This kid comes across as the genuine article ,thanks for the insight M,R. O’B


February 26th, 2012
9:54 pm

The 5 pounds will not affect Freeman as we now have hitting coach(s) that knows what they are doing !!! I feel that Freddie might be more receptive to advice than Jason was even tho he may have been mislead by that former wannabe hitting coach>


February 26th, 2012
10:17 pm

Since the start of Spring training, as well as last year, I have been amazed at the volume of negative comments directed toward Chipper Jones. I have been a Braves fan since 1966 and have seen many players come and go. Chipper has been one of the most loyal, dedicated and productive players in Braves history. He is a virtual lock first ballot HOF when he hangs up his spikes and is certainly top 3 all-time switch hitters. He has been a team player restructuring his contract in the past and moved to left field to help the team, despite being an All Star fixture at third base. He is recognized by opposing teams and managers as being clutch. The only reasons I can fathom for the negative comments regarding Chipper are either ignorance of facts, dislike for him as a person or jealousy/envy for his position in life. He won a batting title just 4 years ago; I won’t quote his lifetime achievements-they are numerous. Look them up. As with a lot of people unappreciative of past accomplishments, they want to know “Yea, but what have you done for me lately?”. Let me tell you if you haven’t bothered to look it up before making your hater comments.
Stats from last year courtesy of and ESPN in regards to last year for NL third basemen.
As for the he is always hurt and doesn’t play enough- his AB were #3 behind Polanco and A. Ramirez. As for his fielding sucks- he fielding % was #2 .996 to Polanco’s .997 (just 6 errors). As to he can’t hit anymore- he led the Braves in slugging %. As compared to other NL third basemen the following: 3rd in HRs, 3rd in slugging, tied for 2nd in RBIs, 3rd in OPS, 2nd in walks, 3rd in runs scored. Compared to the big names in our division here are the slash lines: Chipper 275/344/470/814; Polanco 277/335/339/674; Zimmerman 289/355/443/798 and Wright 254/345/427/771. For those of you that don’t know what all the numbers mean I’ll make it simple- the higher the better. For those of you that want to make excuses for Zimmerman and Wright regarding injuries, why don’t you use the same argument with own player? For those of you saying his #s are OK but not for 14M, let me say this. Players are paid based on past performance. That’s the way it works. You may be over paid in the early years and overpaid in the twilight years. That’s the nature of the game. I’ll bet some of you haters were the same ones ragging on Wren for not signing that big bopper free agent to play left field- like Jason Bay. Why don’t you look up his stats and see how that’s working out for the Mets?
So based on “What have you done for me lately?”, I think I’ll take Chipper at third base even if it’s for 125 games a season. You won’t find any better in the NL based on the FACTS.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

February 26th, 2012
10:34 pm

well played longtimefan, i’ve always been a Chipper fan. Back to article, i hope Freddie doesn’t go through a 2nd year slump like Heyward. Hopefully both can go crazy this year!!


February 26th, 2012
10:39 pm

Freeman should have won a Gold Glove last year..One of the best players on team. Go Braves!


February 26th, 2012
10:39 pm

Well said longtime fan!


February 27th, 2012
12:06 am

Was this an article about Chipper? Where did that come from? What about Bret Favre? Any thoughts there?

John Leonard

February 27th, 2012
12:17 am

Should bat 4th

Barry Bonnell

February 27th, 2012
12:27 am

Yeah…I like throwing the ball to that dude!

Rod Gilbreath

February 27th, 2012
12:32 am

Me Too….Barry!


February 27th, 2012
12:47 am

um i agree longtime, but one thing you really cannot say about chipper is clutch! thats why we have one title. I also am a long season ticket holder and seen him pop up and SO way too many times with the game on the line. but i agree first ballot HOF.


February 27th, 2012
1:23 am

Here’s hoping that every stadium we play in this year is located on Elm Street!


February 27th, 2012
2:12 am

Enter your comments here

Whopper Dawg

February 27th, 2012
3:27 am

Best everyday player on the Braves.


February 27th, 2012
4:51 am

Dave: Shouldn’t the “2011″ in the first sentence be “2010?”


February 27th, 2012
4:54 am

nevermind. I was thinking Heyward not Freddie….

Coach D

February 27th, 2012
6:06 am

The most reliable player on the team. He and Mac = studs!

20 out

February 27th, 2012
6:56 am

Do ajc reporters ever question what the players are saying? Like can we ever get a follow up question that might, just might oppose what they are hearing from players? I don’t mean we need to be derisive, but can’t someone question Freeman’s defensive skills for instance. The guy is not that good in the field. I don’t have the metrics in front of me, but I’d bet he’s like 10th in the NL. He’s not that good. Period.

Matt the Brave

February 27th, 2012
7:41 am

I think at this point, with Liberty stating that they somehow lost $4 million on the Braves (how? They gave the lame excuse of Lowe’s contract. Couldn’t possibly be their poor management, lying to the fans – remember they stated they were never going to cut salary when they took over the team, then promptly have done so every season since -, or essentially trying to run the team as cheaply as possible), the Braves aren’t going to go and get free agents anytime soon. Liberty Media’s heads are going to keep the Braves as just a tax write-off until they finally run them into the ground.


February 27th, 2012
7:46 am

Sorry 20 out, he was 5th in NL. Go look it up.

Tony B.

February 27th, 2012
7:51 am

20 out I looked it up and Freeman finished tied for 2nd in the NL and 5th in the majors in Feilding% and 7th in the NL and 13th in the Majors in Feilding Range. I would say that is pretty solid. Not spectacular but solid.


February 27th, 2012
7:54 am

Freeman good.

Terry Dunlap

February 27th, 2012
9:18 am

I hope Freddie, doesn’t follow Heyward’s path last year!!!! Now that my Canadien’s, are all but eliminated from the Stanley Cup POlayoffs, I can only hope, that the Braves can remove the ugly memory of last September…..Go Brtaves Go!!!! Enough said!!!


February 27th, 2012
9:42 am

Is it just me or does Freeman bear more than a passing resemblance to Kevin’s big brother Buzz from the Home Alone movies?

Anyway, here’s hoping he has a great sophomore season and avoids the terrible fall-offs of the past two big players who preceeded him in that regard (Francouer and Heyward). Somehow I think he’ll do fine.

As for Heyward, I like what I’m hearing so far out of camp regarding his progress, but I also recall last year when he had a really great Spring Training…and then the actual season began. It’s vital for him and for the Braves that any Spring Training success carries over into the regular season this time around.

Terry Dunlap

February 27th, 2012
9:52 am

My Spell check failed me!! Should be, “Go Braves Go”….Enough said!!!!.


February 27th, 2012
10:59 am

@longtimefan – Clearly you’ve got your crush on for Chipper and I, for one, would wish you two every happiness if you would take his hand and walk him down the aisle and into the sunset. Chipper’s stats are as bloated as this spring’s waistline. If you included all the balls that Chipper should have fielded – for example last year’s infamous grounder that he ‘lost in the lights’ – that are NOT ruled errors due to some home cooking at the scorer’s table, plus the hunderds of balls he ole’ his fielding percentage would be in the 800’s…..and don’t even get me started on how Chipper keeps his average inflated by taking walks, particularly when the team needs a hit, to keep his number of at bats lows and his average artificially high. He may have a chance at the HOF because of blind and in love simpleton fans pretending to be writers, but the longer he drags his carcass thru the downward spiral that has become his career just for the cash (despite his many speeches about “not doing this because of the money”) the farther the HOF gets out of reach…much as the last porkchop is getting out of Chipper’s due to the increasing girth called a ‘waste-line’. The Braves will never win another champioship untili they jetison Chipper and his contract.

Fats Okelley

February 27th, 2012
12:07 pm

Freeman will need to be another FORCE this year if Braves are to make playoffs. Bones Jones and Dan Uggla can’t do it all


February 27th, 2012
12:21 pm

I thought his dirt scoops on throws from infielders was superb..

GT Grad '08

February 27th, 2012
1:07 pm

If you watched FF play defense at all last year you relize how absurd the comment about his defense being ‘not that good’ is. He passed the ‘eye ball’ test everytime he was challeneged. I wonder how many teams would take his ‘not that good’ defense if we asked?

Igonrant comment…really ignorant.

Mark's for the Braves

February 27th, 2012
1:53 pm

Just love Freeman. If he has another good year and Uggla, Heyward and Prado return to form for the whole year, it is going to be a nice season.


February 27th, 2012
8:00 pm

No idea what the Braves will do this year but Freeman may be the best grounded 20-21 year old kid I’ve seen in the big leagues.


February 28th, 2012
9:30 am

Freddie has his head on his shoulders, love to see more of this from other position players, same can be said about the three bullpen aces and now Medlin, a bright future if we keep recruiting this type of player.

Jack J.

February 28th, 2012
10:50 am

To all the FF fans; If i was the braves infielders i would take FF to lunch every day just for all the error’s he saved them! Vaccum cleaner at first base! Wonder why a major league player has to throw ball so bad to first? human nature i suppose; so thanks again FF
Braves management needs to use FF as a example for future picks when drafting for the future!I am looking for FF and Hayward tohave great seasons so Jones, Uggla, McCann, etc. don’t have to act like one or two don’t have to carry the losd alone! Go Braves 2012

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