(I write these Random Ex-Brave blogposts ahead of time with the idea that I can utilize them if I am ever dealing with writer’s block or very busy. The latter is the case today as I am currently away from home after spending last night in a classroom. I am continuing my education so I will try to see how this blog fits into my schedule. Obviously, it won’t be ahead of family or school. Just the same, even if some days are filler days like today, I plan to regularly update the blog because I have had a lot of fun finding my voice, even if it angers certain readers.)
In the third installment of the Random Ex-Brave series, we touch base with a right-hander who pitched 151.2 innings with the early 90’s Braves, but struggled to stick around for very long with the division-winning teams. On the bright side, his nick name is the same as a beloved cartoon character. So, really, a long baseball run with the team of the 90’s or slick nick name?
Marvin Freeman went undrafted out of high school and went south to became a star at Mississippi State, prompting the Phillies to draft him in the second round of the 1984 draft. That round was a particularly noteworthy one for the Braves. They took Tom Glavine two picks ahead of Freeman and earlier in the round, the Chicago Cubs selected Greg Maddux. In addition, John Farrell was selected after Maddux and Al Leiter was chosen following Freeman. All told, 264.4 bWAR from the second round. Not too shabby.
Starvin’ Marvin’s minor league career was not all that promising. He struggled badly with control, walking 111 batters at AA Reading in 1986 compared to 113 strikeouts. Amazingly, the Phillies still brought Freeman to the majors that season and he made 3 starts with the Phils that season, posting 10 walks to 8 K’s, but getting lucky to the tune of only six hits allowed and a 2.25 ERA.
The following season, Freeman shuffled between Reading and Maine, the AAA club for the Phillies. He would get back to the majors in 1988, but walked more batters than he struck out in a shade over 50 innings. Injuries limited him to 17 innings in 1989.
In 1990, Freeman was at a crossroads. He again struggled with the Phillies and his production at AAA had waned. Attempting to get something for their former second rounder while also making up a 4.5 game hole in the NL East, the Phillies sent Freeman to the Braves for Joe Boever, a reliever who would pitch well down the stretch for the Phils, even as they fell out of contention.
Meanwhile, the Braves sent Freeman to the bullpen and he showed some promise in his nine games in 1990 before becoming a solid reliever for the Braves in 1991, appearing in 34 games with a 2.92 FIP. He finally was able to harness his control, lowering his walk rate to 2.44 BB/9. Leo Mazzone is often given the credit for the success of other better-known pitchers, but Freeman’s impressive improvement in control seems a product of Mazzone’s philosophy. Freeman’s season came to unfortunate end on August 17th with arm trouble and eleven days later, the Braves traded for Alejandro Pena, though the trade may not be related much to the injury to Freeman.
Healthy again, Freeman returned in 1992, though his control did get worse (4.1 BB/9). He appeared in a career-high 58 games and 64.1 innings. He would make it onto the NLCS roster against the Pirates, but had little success. In his first outing, he allowed an inherited runner to score. He gave up a run in Game 2 and was roughed up for five runs in the Game 6 13-4 beatdown. He did not appear in the World Series.
Freeman would struggle to stay healthy in 1993 and pitched poorly when he did stay healthy. After the season, the Braves released Freeman rather than bring him back for another year of arbitration. He caught on with the Colorado Rockies, who were in their second year. He would finish fourth in the Cy Young race, but had his brilliant campaign cut short by the labor strike. On June 13th, he helped beat the Braves and Glavine 7-2, stopping a streak of 16 consecutive loses to the Braves since the Rockies began play.
His success was short lived. In 1995, his WHIP reached 1.72 and the following season was only marginally better at 1.62. He again struggled to stay healthy and on August 31st of 1996, he was selected off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. They gave him one start in the final month of the season, but after two innings, Freeman’s run with the ChiSox was over. In 1997, he tried to prolong his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, but after one start with their AAA squad, his time was done.
But he will always have that nickname. So…that’s something.