Analyzing BABIP: Is Freddie Freeman Lucky or Not?
Freddie Freeman’s 20-game hit streak mercifully came to a close Sunday against the New York Mets.
His 0-4 performance followed a 1-5 game on Saturday, making him 1-9 with five strikeouts in his last two games.
The 21-year-old rookie from California has enjoyed success at the plate almost on the same level as Heyward did in his rookie season, but some of the metrics seem to be suggesting that Freeman is above his head. His absurdly high BABIP (.364) suggests just that, but is this really the case?
It’s easy to find a player’s BABIP (here’s an article explaining it more in detail) and make a snap judgment on whether or not a player has gotten lucky based on how high or low his number is. However, this may not always be the case, and it is important to look at a player’s track record while doing so.
A closer look at Freeman’s minor league career shows that he’s posted BABIPs north of .350 twice, while his career total in the minors is .335. It should be noted that Freeman posted his highest totals (.351 and .352) when he logged more than 500 plate appearances. In other words, when he played a full season, his BABIP seems to end up in the mid .300s.
It’s important to go through this because one can easily say that Freeman is due for a correction soon just by looking at the surface of things. It is entirely possible that he is in line for a bit of a slump, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big one and I don’t think it will have anything to do with a high BABIP.
If you watch Freeman bat, you know that he doesn’t get “cheap” hits. He’s simply a line drive machine. Freeman’s current line drive percentage (24.5%) ranks him 9th in all of baseball. Ahead of Freeman are a few notable players: Joey Votto (career 23.5 LD%), Todd Helton (career 25.1%), and Michael Young (career 24.2%).
These players are notable because their BABIPs have all been consistently high throughout their careers. Votto (.356 career), Helton (.335), and Young (.337) are great examples that having a high BABIP is not always a red flag for regression.
There are almost always exceptions to the rule, and this is a perfect example. Guys who hit for higher line drive percentages will likely see higher BABIPs in the same sense that guys with speed will have above average BABIPs.
Freeman isn’t really performing above his head after all. In fact, Baseball Prospectus’ 90th percentile projected this line for Freddie: .298/.354/.465. He’s mirroring that with almost scary accuracy now.
As with all metric stats, it’s a good practice to look at all factors involved. In Freeman’s case, a BABIP that is too high for some players may just be the norm for him. Freeman isn’t getting lucky at all, and he’s got one heck of a future in front of him.