I talked about this profusely this offseason. Of course, I thought it would be Acuña protecting him, but Donaldson is equally as dangerous. Freddie Freeman, with some protection, is going to have a monster season.
For nearly half a decade Freeman has had Nick Markakis behind him in the lineup. I love Cakes as much as anyone, but hitting him in the cleanup spot is laughable. He has no power, and there isn’t a pitcher on this planet that wouldn’t rather throw to him over Freeman. Even still, Freeman was able to magically hit over .300 every season with 25-35 bombs – a testament to how much of a superstar he is. But with some protection behind him, this is a whole different beast.
Freeman is on pace to crush all of his offensive career-highs. His batting average sits at .315 (2nd best in his career), OBP is .403 (T-1st), slugging percentage .606 (1st), OPS 1.109 (1st), Home runs 21 (1st). He’s on pace for 45 taters, which would demolish his previous season-best of 34. That’s even crazier when remembering he did not pick up his third home run until April 25th and only had four homers in March/April combined.
Most of his damage started on May 16th. Coincidently, that was the day after Austin Riley arrived, giving Freeman two game-changing bats behind him the order, and it’s undoubtedly played a substantial role in the tear he is on. In just over a month, the Braves All-Star first baseman has racked up 14 home runs and eight doubles. Atlanta’s offense as a whole is going bonkers.
This is what happens when a team has a lineup that can put pressure on pitchers. From one to eight, opponents do not get a break when taking on the Braves. Freeman is feasting on it, but he is not the only one. Dansby is thriving in the two-hole, Acuña as always is slugging as the leadoff man, Ozzie has come alive at the bottom of the order, and Josh Donaldson is finally starting to feel himself.
Ask any manager in the NL East; they will tell you Freddie Freeman is the most underrated baseball player in the majors. He is a flat out superstar. Jeff Francouer talked about it on the broadcast last night. It’s time for him to start receiving the national recognition that he deserves. After this season, it should be impossible to ignore.