Freddie Freeman Misplaced His Poor Meatball


Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports activities

I acquired a little bit anxious final evening. It was nothing main. I used to be unhappy that the Orioles have been being eradicated from the playoffs. I used to be additionally unhappy about the best way it was taking place, which known as to thoughts a cartoon character being tossed face-first via a saloon door whereas the bartender shouts, “And keep out!” I used to be a little bit drained from making dialog at a protracted group dinner. And I knew this text might actually use one other draft, which meant getting up early earlier than a health care provider’s appointment that I used to be already a little bit nervous about. All minor issues, however the outcome was that after I answered a query from my spouse, one thing in my voice made her cease and ask if I used to be okay.

Everybody deserves to really feel seen. I’ve spent numerous my life feeling lonely, and I’m properly conscious that it’s privilege to have somebody who cares sufficient about you to know whether or not you’re telling the reality whenever you say, “I’m high-quality.” But in addition, typically you actually are shut sufficient to being high-quality that you simply’d quite have your barely bitter temper slip by unnoticed. People are very choosy creatures.

I think about baseball gamers should really feel that manner numerous the time. It’s good to be acknowledged in your accomplishments, but it surely’s acquired to really feel bizarre that anyone on earth can search for your batting common, and that an entire lot of your neighbors already realize it with no need to look it up. Take into consideration how typically you see a participant who has no concept that they’ve achieved some wonderful statistical accomplishment till an interviewer asks them about it. On Saturday, Carlos Correa was too busy truly enjoying within the playoffs to know that he’d handed David Ortiz and Derek Jeter on the all-time playoff RBI record.

A lot of analytics is about studying into small particulars, discovering the bellwethers. We watch a pitcher’s velocity and launch level for indicators that he’s getting drained or compensating for an harm. We monitor exit velocity and chase price as a result of they stabilize extra rapidly than wRC+ and strikeout price. We determine whether or not a hitter will get on base by analyzing how comfy they give the impression of being after they take a pitch.

That is all preamble for the truth that I believe Freddie Freeman is struggling proper now, and I’m basing it on one thing a little bit totally different. It’s not as a result of he solely has one hit and two walks in eight postseason plate appearances. A two-game pattern is simply too small to leap to that conclusion, and a .375 on-base proportion isn’t essentially an indication of impending doom. It’s the pitch he took on Monday evening, the Zac Gallen curveball that froze him with two outs and two on within the backside of the fifth:

Full digression: I’ve watched this clip 100 occasions, and my favourite half has nothing to do with both Freeman or Gallen. My favourite half is Bob Costas saying, “There goes Mookie.” Discuss an evergreen sentiment. Whether or not on a baseball subject, at a bowling alley, or out within the extensive world, at any given second Mookie Betts is normally both doing one thing wonderful or on his approach to do one thing wonderful. There’s hardly ever a foul time to say, “There goes Mookie.”

Again to our matter, right here’s how Patrick Dubuque broke down Freeman’s take for Baseball Prospectus:

Freeman was out earlier than the ball hit Gabriel Moreno’s glove, earlier than it even left Gallen’s hand. He was out the earlier pitch, regardless of it being technically a foul outcome for the pitcher: a 2-2 curveball that dove too eagerly out of the zone. Freeman acknowledged it—it was the identical actual pitch that had gone for a ball on 1-2—so his mind known as halt to that again leg, and he laid off of it. And when the subsequent pitch got here in, identical spin, identical velocity, Freeman reacted. Possibly he was wanting fastball and skim it as the primary pitch of the at-bat, which sailed up close to eye stage. Possibly he noticed the seams and anticipated one other drop. Both manner he froze—earlier than realizing that one variable had altered. The ball broke, simply as anticipated, a foot increased, into the underside of the zone for the essential strike three.

Little doubt, Gallen’s pitch sequencing was an essential a part of Freeman’s resolution to take. For his half, Freeman was extra apprehensive concerning the cutter Gallen threw him earlier. “I had a 1-1 cutter that won’t make me sleep tonight,” he stated. “That’s the one pitch I wanted to hit, and I didn’t hit it. Then he threw three straight curveballs. Good pitch. Three straight, you’re not normally used to that.” Nevertheless, as I thought of what Patrick wrote and watched the clip just a few extra occasions — taking a pitch proper down the center like that — one thing else struck me, so I did a little bit digging:

Freeman sees numerous pitches. In truth, he noticed 2,753 this season, Seventeenth-most in baseball. It was the primary time he’d completed that low since 2019, when he additionally ranked Seventeenth. There are many enjoyable names for these middle-middle pitches in Gameday Zone 5. Cookie is widespread, and I’m significantly keen on cream puff, however the basic thought is that they’re delectable. Baseball Savant calls them meatballs, and Freeman tends to feast on them, working a .491 wOBA this season.

Throughout the common season, Freeman noticed 189 meatballs and swung at 173 of them. His 91.5% swing price was the third-highest amongst certified batters, behind solely Corey Seager and Fernando Tatis Jr. That’s all of the extra notable as a result of each Seager and Tatis have a lot increased general swing charges than Freeman does. That’s to say that comparatively talking, he is perhaps essentially the most aggressive meatball masher within the league. Listed here are the 16 meatballs Freeman didn’t swing at this season:

There are many methods to interrupt them down. Fourteen of them got here in both an 0-0 depend or when he was forward within the depend. Eleven got here both on a fastball or a cutter. On 4 of them, Freeman was very clearly simply timing them up and never even excited about providing. On one other 4 he began a swing however couldn’t pull the set off. Solely one among them got here with two strikes and utterly caught him out the best way Gallen’s did on Sunday. However right here’s the factor that actually caught my eye: In 15 plate appearances, Freeman went 2-for-14 with two singles and a stroll, a slash line of .143/.200/.143. In PAs the place Freeman eschewed a middle-middle pitch, he carried out badly.

Fifteen plate appearances is a really small pattern, and it’s already choosing for PAs the place we all know that Freeman has taken not less than one strike, but it surely nonetheless made me curious. I pulled up Freeman’s rolling 15-game averages and mapped the dates of these takes onto them. There are solely 14 dots on the graph as a result of Freeman took two meatballs every on June 25 and July 2:

A lot of the occasions that Freeman simply let a meatball cross by, he was both in a droop or about to begin one. Clearly, plate self-discipline is an important indicator for any hitter, however I’d by no means considered it fairly this baldly.

Freeman went on Betts’ podcast final week, and he talked about his progress towards the 30-homer mark. Whereas he wasn’t essentially saying that he’s been struggling on the plate currently, he did speak concerning the fixed work and changes that include attempting to really feel comfy on the plate, particularly towards the top of the season.

“It was identical to little flashes. Like I had the one recreation in Colorado the place I hit the house run and I hit the double, however then the subsequent day it’s like I can’t barrel a ball. It was simply on and off. After which I had the primary recreation in San Fran, I had the house run and the double and I used to be like, “Huh, we would do it.” However then I acquired to the cage the subsequent day and I couldn’t even hit the ball within the cage. And I used to be like, ‘God, this isn’t good.’”

“Most individuals simply see the large image, and so they see the .330 and this and that, and so they assume that every little thing is nice, however there’s little stretches throughout that course of 162 that, man, I simply I really feel like I don’t know hit the ball. I keep within the field, it seems like my toes are within the mistaken spot, my fingers are within the mistaken spot.”

That brings us again to our two-game postseason pattern. Not solely did Freeman cross on the curve from Gallen on Monday, he additionally watched a middle-middle curve from Merrill Kelly on Saturday. These have been the primary curveball meatballs that he didn’t swing at this 12 months. He noticed 12 in the course of the common season, and he swung at each single one among them. In our tiny pattern of two pitches, Freeman isn’t performing fairly like himself, and I believe it’s honest to say that he’s not seeing the ball in addition to he normally does:

To be clear, after I discuss a droop, I imply that in relative phrases. Freeman ran a .409 wOBA this season. A .320 wOBA counts as an actual droop for him, but it surely’s the large league common, which is hardly disastrous. When you have been to ask, I’m positive he’d let you know that he feels high-quality. And once more, we’re speaking about Freddie Freeman. He simply put up the sixth-best wRC+ in baseball, the second-best wRC+ of his profession, and profession bests in batting common and on-base proportion. If there’s anybody who can turns issues round in a rush, or anybody who ought to get the good thing about the doubt after they get fooled on the occasional curveball, it’s him. However in the intervening time, I’m questioning if he’s okay.

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