How Freddie stayed elite from Atlanta to LA

June 3rd, 2022

In his new Dodger blue uniform, keeps marching along at the same pace he always does. He's the epitome of consistency -- he was Atlanta's cornerstone at first base, and now he's L.A.'s.

It's remarkable that Freeman continues to be the same hitter every year because of how high a level of hitting it takes to replicate his own performance. But he's replicating it again, across the country from where he spent the entirety of his career until this season.

Even with his home run numbers down a little, Freeman's OPS+ over his first two months with the Dodgers was 145, which means he was about 1 1/2 times as good as a league-average hitter. It also means this version of Freddie Freeman is just as good as the Freddie Freeman that's existed for the last decade. In the 10 years since his first All-Star season for Atlanta as a 23-year-old in 2013, Freeman's OPS+ is … 144.

In every single one of those seasons, including this one, Freeman has been over 30% better than an average Major League hitter. He is the only player with such a streak of consistency.

Most seasons with OPS+ of 130 or higher since 2013
Min. 150 PA in each season
Freddie Freeman -- 10
Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt -- 9
Nelson Cruz -- 8
Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, J.D. Martinez -- 7

If you look at the numbers behind the numbers, there are certain markers of hitting success that Freeman always hits. A lot of markers.

Freeman has been great for longer than Statcast has existed. But we can look at his contact quality for the last eight years to get a more complete picture of his elite consistency.

Let's take a look at Freeman's hit tracking data for 2022 and how it compares to what he's done for the whole Statcast era, which began in 2015.

Look at how similar all those metrics are, between Freeman's first year in Los Angeles and his entire body of work under Statcast tracking.

  • He's hitting the ball at the same exit velocity and launch angle
  • He's making hard contact (95-plus mph) at the same frequency and hitting the ball in the line drive and fly ball sweet spot (8-32 degrees) at the same frequency
  • He's barreling the ball at the same level -- that means making the very best contact, hitting the ball at the exit velocity and launch angle most likely to result in home runs and extra-base hits
  • His expected stats based on his quality of contact -- expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and the all-encompassing expected wOBA -- are as high as ever … even a little higher

It's not just that the numbers are similar -- it's that they're top-tier. Strong exit velocity, line-drive launch angle, hard-hit and sweet-spot rates over 40%, double-digit barrel rates, an xBA over .300, xSLG close to .600 and xwOBA over .400 … Freeman checks all the boxes.

And if you do a year-by-year breakdown of all those same hitting metrics, it reveals how rare of a hitter Freeman is.

Most seasons with both a 40%+ hard-hit rate and sweet-spot rate under Statcast tracking
Freddie Freeman -- 6
J.D. Martinez -- 4
Mike Trout, Nick Castellanos, Trevor Story, Matt Carpenter -- 3

Most seasons with 10%+ barrel rate under Statcast tracking
Nelson Cruz, J.D. Martinez -- 8
Freddie Freeman, Nick Castellanos, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Mike Trout -- 7

Most seasons with .290+ xBA under Statcast tracking
Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout -- 7
Bryce Harper, DJ LeMahieu, J.D. Martinez, Michael Brantley -- 5

Most seasons with .550+ xSLG under Statcast tracking
Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout -- 7
J.D. Martinez -- 6
Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, Nelson Cruz -- 4

Most seasons with .390+ xwOBA under Statcast tracking
Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout -- 7
Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez -- 6
Aaron Judge, Joey Votto -- 5

(For rate stats above: Min. 100 batted balls in each season.
For expected stats: Min. 150 PA in each season.)

Freeman is basically always in the top 10% of Major League hitters by contact quality … and usually in the top 5% … and sometimes at the very, very top.

When it comes to perennial hitting excellence, whether it's traditional stats or the underlying Statcast metrics, there's Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout and everyone else … maybe a J.D. Martinez or a Bryce Harper thrown into the conversation.

For Freeman, this is a run of nearly 1,300 games and over 5,600 plate appearances being one of the best hitters in the world, all the time. As the first-place Dodgers look to reclaim the National League West title after their decade-long reign was snapped in 2021 -- a run of brilliance that began the same year as Freeman's -- they have to be glad that at least some things never change.