Freddie Freeman's 'wet newspaper' is not pitcher-friendly

Those of you who insisted 10 days ago that Freddie Freeman needed to be, had to be, must be shut down for the rest of the season, Dusty Baker and the Nationals would like to second that proposal. (Actually, the Cubs, Rangers and Marlins also probably would have seconded it already.)

Freeman had three hits, including a three-run homer, in the Braves’ 8-0 win against the Nationals on Tuesday night, which gave the big first baseman a .415 average (17-for-41) with eight extra-base hits (three homers), 11 RBIs and a .500 OBP and .756 slugging percentage in 10 games since Sept. 2.

Freddie Freeman returns to the dugout after crushing a three-run homer against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday at Nationals Park. (AP photo)

You might recall, Sept. 2 was the day in Chicago when Freeman said after striking out with a runner on in the ninth inning of a 14-12 loss that it felt like he was swinging a “wet newspaper” and that his bat speed was “completely gone” because of the weakening state of the left wrist he fractured May 17, which caused Freeman to miss seven weeks.

Nevermind that Freeman had a home run and an RBI double that day. “I’ve got nothing left, really. I’m doing my best up there, but I needed to do a little bit better the last time,” he said afterward.

To which lesser major league hitters – which is almost every active major league hitter – would probably say to their genial pal, “Shut up, Freddie.” But they would say it with a smile, because everyone seemingly loves Freeman, despite the fact he routinely rakes against most of their teams including the Nationals.

“Freddie, boy, he continues to hit us hard,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said after Tuesday’s game, when Freeman hit a home run that sailed more than 440 feet, high on the green-grass batter’s eye backdrop beyond center field at Nationals Park, the first homer by a lefty batter this season off veteran Gio Gonzalez.

In his past 83 games against the Nationals, dating to July 1, 2012, Freeman has a .370 average (114-for-308) with 46 extra-base hits (15 home runs), 59 RBIs, a .620 slugging percentage and 1.058 OPS.

In his past 19 games against the Nats, since mid-August 2016, Freeman is 29-for-75 (.387) with nine doubles, six homers, 24 RBIs and a 1.218 OPS.

Before we go any further, here’s a stat I looked up today. It’s the top OPS totals in the majors over the past 365 days by all who’ve played at least 100 games in that span: 1. Mike Trout 1.077, 2. Joey Votto 1.045, 3. Freddie Freeman 1.042, 4. Charlie Blackmon 1.026, 5. Giancarlo Stanton 1.005, 6. Paul Goldschmidt .994.

More on that in a moment, specifically the Freeman vs. Trout numbers that are remarkably similar.

While Freeman probably was frustrated after going 3-for-27 with one homer and a .561 OPS in an eight-game span from Aug. 25 through the first two games of the four-game series at Wrigley Field, it’s clear that slump was the outlier in his performance, not an indication of where he was or is performance-wise, regardless of the wrist. Consider: In his 20 games before that slump, Freeman hit .380 (30-for-79) with 10 extra-base hits (three homers) and a 1.025 OPS.

Granted, the home-run total was a bit down, but 99 percent of the players in baseball would love to have a 20-game stretch like that one that Freeman had with his wrist in what he characterized as a declining condition, the strength being reduced to about “65 percent” by midway through the series at Chicago at the beginning of September.

If his left wrist is 65 percent, then he’s even more of a hitting savant, more of a gifted baseball freak, than many teammates and coaches already believe he is.

Freeman returned from his fractured wrist well ahead of schedule and after hardly any minor league rehab, and still hit .269 with an impressive (by average-player standards) 11 extra-base hits (five homers), 15 RBIs and an .841 OPS in his first 24 games through Aug. 1.

But since then, ramped it up, if not to his usual standards then pretty damn close: In 38 games beginning Aug. 2, he’s hit .340 (50-for-147) with 21 extra-base hits (seven homers), 28 RBIs, 21 walks, 27 strikeouts and a .424 OBP and .578 slugging percentage (1.002).

That’s a 1.002 OPS over 38 games while swinging a “wet newspaper.” As I said, the rest of baseball would like to smack you, Freddie.

Now, back to the leading OPS totals in the majors over the past 365 days.

In that span Votto played 163 games, Blackmon 160, Stanton 153 and Goldschmidt 156, while Freeman (114 games) and Trout (115 games) each missed about seven weeks because of injuries this season -- Freeman’s fractured wrist and Trout’s torn thumb ligament, both in May. Each led his respective league in several major offensive categories this season before getting hurt in May.

Freeman led the NL in homers (14) and ranked second in both OBP (.461) and slugging percentage (.758) before he was hit in the wrist by a 94-mph fastball May 17, which caused him to miss seven weeks (three fewer than initially anticipated). At the time of the injury, he also led the majors in home runs (42) and OPS (1.058) over the previous 365 days while batting .318 in that span.

Flash ahead to now, and here’s the rather startling past-365-days comparison between Freeman and Trout, a two-time American League MVP who has finished no lower than runner-up for that award in each of his first five seasons and is generally regarded as the best player in the game:

-- Trout in 514 PA (400 AB): .313 average, .459 OBP, .618 slugging percentage (1.077 OPS), 58 extra-base hits (30 homers), 73 RBI, 25 SB, 102 BB, 92 K.

 -- Freeman in 501 PA (425 AB): .325 avg., .421 OBP, .621 slugging percentage (1.042 OPS), 65 extra-base hits (30 homers), 81 RBI, 9 SB, 66 BB, 97 K.

To which I say, wet newspapers for everyone. (Besides, we could use the boost in rack sales.)

• Since today is Dave Mustaine's birthday, here's one from Megadeth .



Only yesterday they told me you were gone

All these normal people, will I find another one?

Monkey on my back, Aching my bones

I forgot you said "One day you'll walk alone"

I said I need you, does that make me wrong?

Am I a weak man, are you feeling strong?

My heart was blackened, It's bloody red

A hole in my heart, a hole in my head?

Who will help me up?

Where's the helping hand?

Will you turn on me?

Is this my final stand?

In a dream I cannot see

Tangled abstract fallacy

Random turmoil builds in me

I'm addicted to chaos

Lights shined on my path,

Turn bad days into good

Turn breakdowns into blocks, I smashed 'em

Cause I could

My brain was Labored, My head would spin

Don't let me down, don't give up, don't give in

The rain comes down, cold wind blows

The plans we made are back up on the road

Turn up my collar, welcome the unknown

Remember that you said

"One day you'll walk alone"

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