I don't mean hot as in looks, although I'm sure plenty of the Braves Country ladies would have something to say about that. What I do mean is that Freddie Freeman is playing some of the best baseball he's played in his career, and he's off to one of the hottest starts he's ever had. How good is Freddie right now through 25 games?
.378 Batting Average
.491 On-Base Percentage
4 Stolen Bases
Freddie is 2nd in Slugging in the NL, and he's number one overall in WAR for the early season. He's easily the best player in the league through April, and the fact that Ryan Zimmerman won it over him is only because he is #1 in slugging and the Nats are the best team in the NL right now.
But think about this, in June of 2016 people were turning on Freddie Freeman. It sounds ridiculous now, but remember the scenario. Let's jump in the wayback machine and teleport ourselves to June 9th, 2016. The Braves are 17-42 in the standings. It's the worst start most Braves fans that were born in the 80s and 90s have every really witnessed. Freddie is batting with a smooth .250/.345/.431 slash line. He's only got 9 homers in 58 games, he's striking out at an alarming rate, and this team can't figure out how to score. Everyone looks lost, and Freddie just doesn't look right out there at the plate, even if the numbers aren't that bad.
Cue this article I wrote back then: http://www.bravesbythenumbers.com/2016/06/is-freddie-freeman-worth-20m-year.html
Back then I compared Freddie's value to other hitters, and his total contract value against his WAR for his career. Then I looked to see what he would need to produce in WAR today to get to his anticipated contract values. The answer is about 3.5 WAR a season. Through a month this season, Freddie is already at 2.2 WAR. That's insane. He could basically coast to an average ho-hum season for the rest of the year, and he'd still be well worth the $20.5M he's making this year for the Braves, and I'm guessing he'll do better than that.
It's funny how much difference a small change can make. Supposedly Freddie changed his approach in batting practice to try and hit line drives at the short stop every time he was hitting. That apparently keeps his hands inside and allows him to put the bat on the ball better. Is that all there is to it? I certainly believe it's part of the solution, but almost no hitter is going to tell the media EXACTLY what's working, because that's going to tell pitchers how to get you out. I mean hell, he could be completely making up the shortstop thing just to keep us off his trail. He's sneaky like that.
Anyway, it's great to see Freddie performing because he's the highest paid player on the team, and it's even better to see him starting to actually take more of a "face-time" role. I think as he ages, he'll start to think of his role more like Chipper did. Initially Chipper was reluctant to take over as a leader and even a bit abrasive with the media and fans. As Chipper aged, he softened towards everybody and realized that being a jackass doesn't help anything. Maybe Freddie is starting to move towards that goal already, which would be a great sign for this clubhouse winning in the near future.