Freddie Freeman is amazing. You know that. He started out as more of a good player, posting a 117 wRC+ and around a 1.5 WAR per year his first few seasons. Since then though, he has legitimately become one of the five best hitters in baseball. Over his last five seasons, he has averaged a 146 wRC+ and produced 23 wins above replacement despite missing significant chunks of the year 2 out of the last 3 seasons. He is basically a perennial 5 win player and, by every definition, a superstar.
Today we’re going to look at one of the reasons why he’s such a dynamic hitter; his plate coverage. When you can hit – with authority – pitches from any location in the strike zone or even sometimes out of the strike zone, you’ve become truly elite. And Freeman can.
We’ll start with, presumably, Freddie’s favorite location. Freeman often talks about his approach and how he’s basically trying to hit a line drive over the shortstop’s head. This would lead to you to believe that pitches on the outside corner or even low-and-away would be his sweet spot. Here’s his heat map from the last few years, confirming that theory:
So it really shouldn’t surprise us when he does this:
For most hitters, low and away isn’t a bad spot. Tom Glavine made a career out of it. But for Freeman, that pitch is right in his wheelhouse. Even if you go further outside of that, he can still get it:
I don’t know how you pull that pitch and hit it that far. (All of these are HRs by the way)
Freddie likes the ball low. Here’s Alex Wood thinking he’s made a pretty good pitch right at the bottom of the zone, slightly below the knees:
That ball split the plate but it was still on the black at the bottom of the zone. Jordan Zimmermann learned even going out of the zone low isn’t safe:
It’s not just low and away though. Jon Lester thought maybe trying low-and-in would work:
There is some logic to trying to bust a guy inside who’s trying to hit the ball over the SS’s head. Dan Straily tried it.
Ok. What about up and in?
As the fly ball revolution has taken over baseball, pitchers have started using the top of the zone to induce pop-ups. Taijuan Walker tried it with Freeman:
We’ll end it with one homer that no human should hit against Madison Bumgarner.
2-strike count. Choked up on the bat. Sawed off follow through. Up and out of the zone. 400+ foot HR. Jesus. Just walk him.