Lost in the splendor of Bryce Harper’s incredible evening in Atlanta on Wednesday was the continued tear of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman went 2/3 with a homer, a walk, two runs scored, and a pair of RBI in the game, setting a new franchise record by reaching base in 12 straight plate appearances.
For the season, Freeman is hitting an unreal .440/.533/.920 with six homers (and somewhat hilariously, only eight RBI thanks to the struggles of Dansby Swanson in the two-hole). His .591 wOBA is the second-best mark in baseball (behind just Brewers breakout star Eric Thames), and Harper is the only other player over the .500 mark on the season. Freeman also just edges Thames in wRC+ with a 282 mark, and again, only those two and Harper are above 230 on the season.
And while this is a hot start to the season for Freeman, it’s not as if it came out of nowhere. He’s coming off a 2016 season that struck fear into the hearts of pitchers around the National League. Last season, Freeman launched a career-high 34 bombs, slashing .302/.400/.569. It was the first time his on-base percentage hit .400, and just the second time Freeman’s batting average crossed the .300 mark (along with his previous career year back in 2013).
Somehow, those 2016 numbers are a bit misleading, because Freeman’s start to the 2016 season was a disaster. In April, he hit just .259/.368/.407, and in May, those numbers dropped to .245/.314/.427. He combined for only eight home runs over those two months. And then, Freeman caught fire – from June 1 through the end of the season, he hit .327/.428/.641 with 26 homers. That’s good for a .437 wOBA and a 176 wRC+, second only to Joey Votto among all other players in baseball over the second half of the season.
When you tack on Freeman’s start to 2017, he’s unparalleled among all MLB hitters. His triple slash is .339/.436/.672, which translates into a .454 wOBA and a 188 wRC+, and he’s hit 32 balls out of the park for good measure.
Freeman’s switch of home parks also needs to be considered. At SunTrust Park this year, Freeman is hitting .647/.750/1.353 in a tiny sample of just six games. But it wouldn’t be a shock if his final slash line at home is much better than in 2016 at Turner Field, when he hit a pedestrian .281/.368/.498. SunTrust has played hitter-friendly overall, with teams hitting .264/.337/.420 overall at the stadium – the fifth-highest OPS among all parks in baseball. As a comparison, hitters at Turner Field last season slashed .255/.328/.386, which ranked in the bottom third of baseball.
Yes, it’s still early, and Freeman’s hot start could be tempered by a cold week and a half to end April. But this isn’t just a good week, or a good month – this is nearly a full season of Freeman obliterating National League pitching. If SunTrust Park continues to favor hitters as it has so far, Matt Kemp returns to hit behind Freeman in the Braves lineup, and Dansby Swanson starts hitting his weight, Freeman could turn in one of the best offensive seasons the city of Atlanta has ever seen.
And who knows, maybe the juggernaut season could end with an NL MVP award.