Freddie Freeman could become Braves’ first MVP in over 20 years

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

If the expected result is unveiled Thursday night, first baseman Freddie Freeman will be the Braves’ first National League MVP since Chipper Jones in 1999.

The expectation across baseball is that Freeman will be awarded MVP honors for his exceptional 2020 campaign. He was announced as a finalist last week along with Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Padres third baseman Manny Machado.

Freeman hit .341/.462/.640 with an MLB-leading 23 doubles, 13 homers, 53 RBIs and 51 runs scored while playing all 60 games. He had an NL-best 18-game hitting streak from Aug. 14 through Sept. 4. He had an MLB-best 33-game on-base streak from Aug. 11-Sept. 18.

Because of injuries, Freeman shifted into the No. 2 spot in the order for 26 games, hitting .390 with six homers and 25 RBIs. He wound up hitting second throughout the Braves' postseason run, slotted between fellow Silver Sluggers Ronald Acuna and Marcell Ozuna in one of the most productive lineups in franchise history.

To cap it off, Freeman won NL player of the month for September. He hit .375/.496/.750 with eight homers and 32 RBIs while walking (20) more than striking out (14). In the second-to-last game of the season, Freeman entered late and hit a walk-off homer in extras to defeat the Red Sox and clinch the No. 2 seed for the Braves. The team had already secured its third consecutive division title.

Freeman reached new heights despite an early July COVID-19 diagnosis that kept him out of nearly all summer camp. He returned less than a week before opening day but struggled in the early portion of the season, hitting .190 (8-for-42) across his first 13 contests. It was understandable rust that’s now completely forgotten, given how his next 47 games unfolded.

The MVP ballots were submitted before the postseason, but Freeman provided two memorable moments there, too. He came up with the game-winning hit in the 13th inning of Game 1 against the Reds in the wild-card round. He also homered in his first NL Championship Series at-bat against the Dodgers, though the Braves eventually lost that series in seven.

Credit: Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

While Freeman boasts the best numbers among the NL MVP finalists, Betts and Machado assembled their own stellar seasons. Betts hit .292/.366/.562 with 16 homers, 39 RBIs and 47 runs scored for the eventual champion Dodgers. Machado hit .304/.370/.580 with 16 homers, 47 RBIs and 44 runs scored for the Padres, who ended their playoff drought and had the second-most victories in the NL.

It would be an upset if either wins the honor over Freeman, however. The Braves' face of the franchise appears on the cusp of getting his due after generally being considered one of the sport’s most underrated players.

“I don’t know if you can (quantify Freeman’s importance),” manager Brian Snitker said during the postseason. “His presence, who he is and what it means to our organization, on the field, in the clubhouse, off the field, the man he is. The guy is some kind of special for all of us, for me more than most. I lean on him. I’ve been with him for so long, the ability to just bounce things off him. It’s really good to have a leader like that that you can talk to.”

Freeman’s steadiness, both in performance and the intangibles, has him poised to earn one of baseball’s highest individual honors Thursday night.