How’d that Freeman-at-third-base thing go? Not so hot

This just looks wrong. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

On the day Freddie Freeman is handed his plaque in Cooperstown — I know I’m getting ahead of things, but I just got back from there and it’s my way of nudging myself to collate and file expenses — we’ll scratch our heads and say, “Hey, wasn’t there a time when the Atlanta Braves tried to play him at third base?”

Yes. That just happened. It’s happening no more. I believe I speak for a grateful Braves Nation by saying, “Hoo-rah.”

Freeman was not nearly a calamity at 3B. He played 16 games there. He made one error. If he looked out of place (and he did), he was never overmatched.

(Pause to recount my favorite third base anecdote: When Andy Van Slyke, who would become a Gold Glove center fielder, was playing for the Triple-A Louisville Redbirds, he was a third baseman. He got married on a Saturday. He played third base on Sunday. He made four errors.)

(Braves fans will forever recall Van Slyke as the forlorn Pirate who sat in center field after Sid Bream slid and the Braves went crazy. He was also the guy who hit the ball that Otis Nixon caught. And enough of that.)

In the 16 games he started at third, Freeman’s batting numbers were .286/.357/.524. That seems fine — until we note that Freeman in 46 games at 1B has these numbers: .321/.427/.691. He has 15 home runs in 46 games as a first baseman, or roughly one every third game. He had four in the 16 games at third base, exactly one every four. His OPS as a third baseman was .881. His OPS as a first baseman is 1.128, which would lead the majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

We’ll never know if Freeman’s relative dip in hitting while being stationed at the other corner — which was, we stipulate, his idea — was a function of changing positions or an inevitable correction in what was, prior to his broken wrist, shaping up as a historic season. What we can know is that Brian Snitker said Tuesday that Freeman was headed back to first base full-time and that Matt Adams, whose hot June was the trigger for this move, will be getting starts in left field in the absence of Matt Kemp. (Which will not go well, but that’s another matter.)

(Speaking of inevitable corrections: Adams in June hit .314 with 10 home runs and an OPS of 1.034; in July he hit .257 with three homers and an OPS of .760. Water seeks its level.)

I understand why Snitker and the Braves did what they did. (And Freeman did offer.) For a moment, it appeared this team might have a sort-of-wild-card-shot. We know better now. Still, it was the wrong move.

Freeman is not Sean Rodriguez, whose stock in trade is to have no single stock in trade. He’s the big bopper. He’s the first baseman. He’s the cornerstone. You do not mess with that. Those 16 games at third base did no real harm — thank goodness — but this was an experiment not to be repeated. I’m fairly certain it won’t be.

Reader Comments 0

49 comments
vaebam
vaebam

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#41
#41

Never should have put Freeman at 3B to begin with. 

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease


Can't blame the dip in hitting on playing 3d base.  Freeman was coming off the disabled list and hadn't played in weeks.  Surprised he hit as well as he did (maybe he hit so well because he was at 3d). 



jmccoy1252
jmccoy1252

There's an old saying that you look at the back of a players baseball card, hence Matt Adams.

Sam33
Sam33

its gotta be a tough job covering the Braves every day. my goodness, there's nothing more boring than Braves baseball. they were tough to watch when they were good, now its like watching paint dry on a nice new stadium...

Berserker
Berserker

Wrong. Third base has nothing to do with hitting. Chipper Jones moved to outfield, then third base. He's going to Cooperstown soon.

hardworkinman
hardworkinman

Braves need a legitimate catcher. Flowers and Suzuki can hit, but neither can throw the cat out of the house.

Terpskin
Terpskin

They CAN throw the cat out of the house and the ball out of the infield. Keep Suzuki. Dump Flowers!

Bravosfam
Bravosfam

So dump a 300 hitter that has great receiving skills get real

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

I said this on DOB's blog...Camargo needs to play everyday. Unless or until he goes into a big slump.

slc10
slc10

I never did like Freddie at 3rd but he did okay. That 16 game split could have come with him playing 1st. As for Rodriguez, this is basically his spring training. We don't know what would have been there. I felt eventually Adams would stumble. Maybe they should have had the 10 games stumble weeks ago and we are trading Adams. Acquiring players is something that is far from perfect. We will see.

brushback69
brushback69

@Terpskin

yep, its a team game and all the other players upped their game while he was out..

Terpskin
Terpskin

What Bradley fails to mention (typical) is that while Freddie was on the DL for 6 weeks the Braves played over .500 baseball. With him we're significantly under .500. Somebody wanna explain that?

Stephen Phillips
Stephen Phillips

He did fine at third. He certainly looked as qualified as Santana, Camargo or Rodriguez has over there. The simple fact is that we do not have a viable MLB third baseman, but Freddy did well. We should be proud he was willing to do that instead of cherry picking 16 games of batting stats.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Stephen Phillips The question is where is Freeman more valuable to the Braves defense , 1B is the most reasonable answer. The Braves can survive with Camargo at 3B until a better option is available, whether it is Austin Riley (in AA) or if Coppy will ever make another trade for a MLB ready player.Or finally sign a Free Agent that is not over 40. Mike Moustakas will be a free agent after this season,he is 28 years old batting .274 with 30 HR and 69 RBI, make an offer Coppy.

Stephen Phillips
Stephen Phillips

@Buschleaguer @Stephen Phillips He was much MORE valuable to the Braves offense as a third baseman, and the other options at third are poor. I agree he should stay at first, but the article made it seem like he struggled there. He did not. He is every bit as good defensively at third as Rodriguez, Camargo or Santana. That was my point. A free agent at third seems to be the only hope as Riley is struggling and Maitan is far away and would have to change positions. I have little faith in Camargo long term as nothing more than a utility player.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Stephen Phillips @Buschleaguer Based on what . Camargo has only made 2 errors splitting time between three Infield positions. he is batting .296 with a .795 OPS. not to bad for a utility player , especially playing for the Braves. How are the other Braves utility players faring, Sean Rodriguez .129  BA .833 fielding % at 3B. Danny Santana .213 BA and a big ole last night on a hard ground ball at 3B. Jace Peterson at Gwinnett, Dansby Swanson the same, so tell me what is your reasoning for the Diss of Camargo.

Stephen Phillips
Stephen Phillips

@Buschleaguer @Stephen Phillips Swanson hit .302 in his time up last year. They will figure Camargo out soon enough. And Freddy made only 1 error at third. Camargo looks good so far, but so did Dansby at this point, or have you forgotten?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Stephen Phillips @Buschleaguer Why must everything be a comparison to the Great Dansby? Swanson was rushed to the bigs barely 600 minor league AB's.Camargo has been in the Braves system since he was 16 years old.

Damnitbuzz
Damnitbuzz

Remember when another Brave who had won a Gold Glove at his position changed positions to help the team (Chipper switching to LF for Vinny freaking Castilla to play 3B)? Pretty sure Chipper was applauded for his unselfishness and being such a team player. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Damnitbuzz Chipper moved to LF because he was athletic enough to do it, and Castillo was also a pretty good defensive 3B. Adams is at best an average defender at 1B, and way below average defensively as a LF.

Damnitbuzz
Damnitbuzz

@Buschleaguer Matt Adams had very similar fielding percentage to Freddie at 1B when Adams played there full time (.993 Adams vs .996 Freeman). Advanced Defensive metrics are bullish on both guys, so that's a wash. But to say that Adams is at best league average is to say that Freddie is also. 


Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Damnitbuzz @Buschleaguer Freeman has made 44 errors at 1B in 8349 total chances. Adams has made 29 errors in less  than half of the total chances (3655) Adams has played more than 120 games only once in his MLB career.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

What exactly is Sean Rodriguez's single stock in Trade now? Either he has not fully recovered from his shoulder injury, or Coppy has erred again in giving Rodriguez a two year deal. .129 BA with 17 K's in 31 AB's.Put him back on the DL and open a spot for a more productive player ,if there are any on the roster.

UGA52(it's one better)
UGA52(it's one better)

@Buschleaguer he's not healthy.  he has ran into a couple of fastballs out of luck, but he's late most of the time even on low 90's pitches.  I'm hoping he'll be fully healed by spring training, but right now he looks completely overmatched by MLB pitching.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Far, far too much has been made of this. Actually, if Freeman could prove himself to be a reliably serviceable third baseman it would enhance his value and open a slot for a power-hitting first baseman in the lineup, Adams or other, platoon or otherwise. Until they find an everyday third baseman with some power it's an option that should be considered. Gives them another option for double-switches when the bench gets short. It's not like he's the first first-baseman to move over to third.


Trying Adams in left is a similar "why not" at this point. I have far less confidence in Adams as a left fielder than Freeman at third, but with Kemp on the bench and winning games not much of a concern at this point, why not see what you have?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DawgDadII Easy fix , call up Acuna put him in LF.Bring Swanson back up at put him at 2B move Albies to SS ,Camargo to 3B and leave Freeman at 1B, where he is a gold glove candidate every year.Defense and pitching are cornerstones of a winning team. At least with making these moves the Braves are halfway there.Put Adams on the bench as a LH pinch hitter, give Phillips an unconditional release ,and I hope he signs with a contender of his choosing, only wish he would have come to the Braves earlier in his career.Brandon has been everything he was cracked up to be as a veteran player on a rebuilding team. Take time getting Kemp back from the DL , he will be easier to move in the off season if he is healthy. 

Stephen Phillips
Stephen Phillips

@Buschleaguer @DawgDadII Acuna is not ready. To call him up now would be to show we learned nothing from Swanson. Let the kid finish the season in AAA and call him up in September.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Stephen Phillips @Buschleaguer @DawgDadII The kid has batted over .300 at every level this year A+, AA and now AAA. this is his 3rd year in the Braves system. Swanson still has not had 1000 ab as a professional, he was rushed to the bigs before he was ready. Acuna is a totally different situation than Swanson.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

If Adams is not in the future plans ,why the hell didn't Coppy move him to an AL contender before the trading deadline. Adams as you say Bradley has sunk to his previous MLB level .260 BA 310 OB% and 760 OPS .Coppy should have traded him to the Yankees back in early July when Freeman came of the DL. Another wasted opportunity, Adams will be traded in the off season for some more middling A class prospects. 

UGA52(it's one better)
UGA52(it's one better)

@Buschleaguer He'll have more value in the offseason when there are more teams looking for a 1B or maybe even a DH.  Outside of NYY, who else would have wanted him right now?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@UGA52(it's one better) @Buschleaguer I am sure there are several teams that want Adams, a LH hitter with power.Let's see Coppy try to squeeze Adams through the waiver wire, he would be claimed in minutes. But none would give Coppy a boatload of prospects at the deadline. If Coppy was going to trade Adams he should have done it while the Yankees were struggling in early July. But unlike the Braves the Yankees have a GM who wants to win now. He grew tired of his IF situation and made deals to improve his teams chances . Coppy only is interested in gathering A$$ets for the future,no desire to bring in pieces to make the Braves a winner now.

Terpskin
Terpskin

Buschleaguer, you make more sense than Coppy? I vote for you as Braves next GM. Coppy is the worst!

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

How'd that all-Barfs-fans-are-in-cobb thing go?  Can't even fill up that smaller building.  Nice work, losers!

Duane Murray7199
Duane Murray7199

Looks like its going fairly well Considering the fact that Atlanta is a hell hole.

Duane Murray7199
Duane Murray7199

I see that you are cowardly commenter hiding behind a symbol.

parabrave
parabrave

I just hope FF didn''t screw up his shoulder.