Braves 1B Freddie Freeman discusses his ‘frustrating’ season

Those dialed into Braves games probably have seen the discontent on first baseman Freddie Freeman’s face.

Freeman, the reigning National League MVP, hasn’t had the season he imagined when he arrived at spring training hoping the Braves would take another step forward after falling just shy of a World Series berth last season.

The Braves entered Friday at 26-28, impacted by underperformance and injuries. Freeman’s own struggles are part of the reason why: He’s hit only .227/.356/.443 with 12 homers and 29 RBIs. It’s a stark difference from a season ago, when Freeman had a career-best campaign, hitting .341/.462/.640 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs across the 60-game season.

Much has been made of Freeman’s misfortunes. He’s still hitting the ball hard, just not in the right spots. It was a minor inconvenience earlier in the season, when the expectation was that his luck would soon flip. Now, in early June, it’s produced more anger because little has changed.

“It’s been frustrating,” Freeman said Friday. “I felt good multiple times during the season. And like I (said) before, it feels like there’s one big glove for me out there. I was talking to my dad last night and he was like, ‘Freddie, you’ve got to be positive.’ That’s the hardest thing in this game. You go up there and hit ball hard, you make a right turn back to the dugout. So he’s just being positive. He goes, ‘It can’t statistically stay like this for six months.’ He’s like, ‘Freddie, I think you’re like 30 balls hard hit.’ He’s trying to give me all the numbers that make me feel better. Being a dad, you know. I’m just staring at him on the FaceTime, like, fuming through the phone because I don’t want to hear that. I don’t. I’d rather hit the ball 42 mph and get a hit.”

Freeman’s BABIP – that’s batting average on balls in play, a statistic that measures a player’s average strictly by the balls hit into the field of play – is a dreadful .224. Freeman’s average BABIP over the past five seasons: .349.

Additionally, Freeman has 77 hard-hit balls, tied for the seventh most in the National League. His expected batting average (xBA), based on quality of contact, is .293. The .066 difference between his xBA and actual batting average is the third largest in the majors.

“It’s run its course last couple of days,” Freeman said. “I think it was like, two or three games ago, I went 0-for-4 with a walk. My first at-bat, Ronald (Acuna is) on second, move them over. So I was OK with that. And then I proceeded to hit three balls up the middle, where I’ve been taught my whole life to try and hit a line drive up the middle to the opposite field. And it went 110, 105 and 105 (mph). And I am 0-for-4 going into my last at-bat. And I was like, ‘What?’

“So is it the frustration? It’s been there. It’s just kind of accumulated over the last couple months. But I tried to take a step back, like my dad said, I have been hitting the ball hard. And it has been going up the middle. So hopefully, they’ll start falling soon. But I feel great. The body feels great. I’ve been able to do my work. So obviously, hitting .220, it kills me. All I care about is a three at the beginning of my batting average. And it’s been tough the first two months, but we still have 100 and six, seven games to go. Like my dad said, it can’t statistically stay like this or you know, I might have gray hair in September.”

All Freeman can do is keep his routine and hope the baseball gods reward his persistence. He reiterated that his struggles have nothing to do with the changes in his family life (he and his wife, Chelsea, had twins before the season) nor his contract status. Freeman, 31, is a free agent following the season.

“That is what it is,” Freeman said. “Nothing’s going on. So we have four more months (in the season) and put it off to the side.”