Baseball isn’t played on paper, but in the offseason, the “on-paper” projections are all we have. This is the second installment in our series looking at the projections for key members of the 2023 Dodgers. We did Mookie Betts first; now it’s time to take a look at Freddie Freeman.
Here are the expected stat lines for Freddie from three projection systems: RotoChamps, Steamer, and Marcels (in the format of AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI R).
RotoChamps: .314/.403/.520 27 101 120
Steamer: .293/.383/.489 25 89 100
Marcels: .302/.387/.494 22 82 99
Freeman’s variance on OPS is actually pretty small, with Steamer and Marcels both putting him at .882 and RotoChamps at .923. The power numbers are also pretty close, ranging from 22 to 27 homers (all three numbers are higher than his 2022 total).
Where we start to see some pretty big variance is in the runs scored and runs batted in. All the projections have him with good numbers, of course, but RotoChamps has him exceeding his numbers from 2022 in both categories, while the other two have him below last year’s numbers.
Of course, both runs and RBIs are team stats more than individual stats, so some of the variance is likely caused by uncertainty over how good Freeman’s supporting cast will be.
Freeman has been very consistent throughout his career, especially when it comes to being on the field. He hasn’t missed significant time since 2017, and he’s played at least 90% of his team’s games in 10 of his 12 seasons. This makes him somewhat easier to project than Mookie Betts was, simply because Betts missed significant time just two years ago (and played injured even when he was on the field).
But one thing that jumps out at me about Freeman’s projections is his projected BABIP. Freddie’s career BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .341, but Steamer projects him at .317 — he hasn’t had a BABIP that low since 2012. If we bump his BABIP up to .341, it takes him from 170 hits to 181, bumping his batting average from .293 to .313.
It’s tough to tell why a projection system would project a BABIP lower than he’s had in a decade, especially with the elimination of the shift, but I’d feel comfortable taking the “over” on a .317 BABIP.
Beyond that, everything seems reasonable. Freeman’s walk and strikeout projections are in line with his career numbers, if a little bit conservative (as we’d expect from projection systems). Steamer is the only system for which we have details projection breakdowns, but we’d assume the big difference between Steamer and the more bullish RotoChamps has to do with the BABIP.
It’ll exciting to see what Freeman will do with the shift banned. In a way, he was one of the players least affected by the shift because of his ability to hit the ball all over the field, but teams still shifted him, which suggests that when he did pull the ball, it was often on the ground. Freeman’s line drives over the shortstop’s head will continue to be hits, but he might snag a few extra hits on grounders between the first and second basemen in 2023.
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