For some ballplayers, a midseason trip to the disabled list can be a death sentence for an otherwise promising year. It can eliminate a hot streak in an instant and ruin a good season because baseball players are creatures of habit.
In his first five games back with the Atlanta Braves since breaking his wrist, that doesn’t appear to be the case for third baseman Freddie Freeman.
The Braves’ star player has picked up right where he left off before his injury, continuing a torrid pace at the plate. In fact, although the sample size is small, the numbers would suggest he’s hitting even better after coming off the DL.
In his first five games back, Freeman has batted .364, whereas his batting average in the first 47 games (pre-DL stint) was .341. He’s also putting the ball in play even more, getting more hits and striking out fewer times.
Since returning from the DL, Freeman has seen better pitches thanks to the beefed-up lineup behind him. His injury led the Braves to sign first baseman Matt Adams, who has proven a formidable No. 5 hitter in the Atlanta lineup. This means pitchers have to worry about cleanup hitter Matt Kemp and Adams, so now, they have no choice but to pitch to Freeman.
The top of the lineup has been getting on base with more frequency, which has given Freeman more opportunities to knock in runs. If you recall, Freeman had 14 homers but just 25 runs batted in before his injury – a sign that he was hitting well, but there weren’t many baserunners he could score when he got those big hits.
In his first five games back, Freeman has 5 RBIs, or one per game. That’s a lot better than the 0.5-RBIs-per-game rate he had before his injury, and it’s a testament to the solid hitting of center fielder Ender Inciarte and second baseman Brandon Phillips.
If there’s one stat where Freeman has lagged, it’s home runs. He’s averaging a homer every 22 at-bats since he returned from the DL, whereas he was hitting one every 9.6 at-bats in his first 47 games. That’ll likely come around, but remember – with the addition of Adams behind him, there’s plenty of power in this lineup now. There’s not as much pressure on Freeman to swing for the fences anymore.
The Braves enter the final game of the season’s first half Sunday against the Washington Nationals in second place in the NL East and 8.5 games behind those Nats. If the Braves are to make a highly unlikely run at challenging Washington for the division title, they’ll need Freeman in MVP form, and through his first five games back, it looks like he’s going to pick up right where he left off.Follow @Sean_Breslin