Freeman’s opportunities will decrease if the other Braves continue to struggle with RISP
With runners at second and third in the eighth inning of the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Mets manager Terry Collins attempted to preserve his team’s one-run advantage by intentionally walking Freddie Freeman. It was a decision that would have been made by virtually any other manager with a pulse or at least some knowledge of what most any other Braves player has done with runners in scoring position this season.
“He’s red hot,” Collins said between Tuesday’s games. “As we saw (with his walk-off home run on Monday night), the last three games they’ve won, they’ve won them with him, so he wasn’t going to do it today.”
Given what we have seen, it should not be long before most managers and pitchers take this approach and take the bat out of Freeman’s hands whenever possible. Yes, it has seemed impossible to walk Freeman with any kind of regularity. But the Mets managed to do so as Freeman matched a career high by drawing three walks (including another of the intentional variety) in Tuesday’s nightcap.
With simply a quick glance, one could surmise Freeman miraculously drew four walks in his final six plate appearances of the doubleheader. He had drawn a total of three walks in the 99 plate appearances that preceded this span.
But this was not a miracle, a coincidence or simply a product of the effectively wild performance Mets phenom Zack Wheeler produced while making his Major League debut in the second game. It is simply something the Braves and Freeman might have to get used to whenever teams are tempted to simply give Freeman first base.
The Braves went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners during Tuesday’s nightcap. B.J. Upton was responsible for stranding six of those runners as he went hitless in three at-bats he recorded immediately following the three two-out walks issued to Freeman.
Upton has shown some signs of encouragement as he has batted .232 (12-for-52) with four homers a .344 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in the 17 games he has played in June. But he has also continued to struggle in key situations, as he has recorded just three hits in 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position this month.
Given he had just two hits in the 32 at-bats he compiled during April and May with runners in scoring position, this a slight improvement. But this was certainly not what the Braves envisioned when they gave Upton a five-year, $75.25 million contract in November.
Nor did the Braves envision going through their first 72 games with both Upton brothers, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla all hitting below .200 with runners in scoring position.
Despite the fact Freeman ranks third in the Majors with a .448 batting average with RISP, the Braves rank third-to-last in the Majors with their .226 batting average with RISP.
If you take away what Freeman (26-for-58) and Jordan Schafer (.292, 7-for-24) have done in these situations, the Braves have hit .192 (83-for-492) with RISP.
Here is what the Braves’ four highest-paid players are hitting with RISP: McCann (.179, 5-for-28); Justin Upton (.156, 7-for-45); Uggla (.133, 6-for-45) and B.J. Upton (.102, 5-for-49).
Alex Avila (.091, 4-for-44) and Mike Moustakas (.061, 3-for-49) are the only Major Leaguers who have tallied at least 30 at-bats with RISP and recorded a lower batting average than B.J. Upton.
This is a subject we touched on less than two weeks ago while the Braves were in Los Angeles playing the Dodgers. But as long as some of these numbers remain the same, you have to wonder how many more managers and pitchers are simply not going to give Freeman a chance to beat them.