The accolades keep on coming in for the National League’s Most Valuable Player, as Freddie Freeman has been named the recipient of the Hank Aaron Award in the senior circuit.
Freeman, who was a second round pick out of El Modena High in Orange, California, posted some gaudy offensive numbers in the shortened 2020 season. Freeman led Major League Baseball in runs and doubles, while putting up career highs in component of his triple slash line (.341/.462/.640)—along with a career high in OPS (1.102).
Known around the league as one of the best pure hitters in the game, Freeman was the backbone of an Atlanta offense that proved to be one of the most dynamic units in baseball during the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
After bouncing back from a disappointing showing in the 2019 playoffs—that culminated in a first round exit for Atlanta—Freeman underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow in the offseason in preparation for 2020. Freeman also was stricken with a serious bout of the COVID-19 virus, which saddled him with intense symptoms that led to significant weight loss for the slugger leading into the season.
The recovery from the surgical procedure and the battle with coronavirus seemingly did little to slow down the league’s premier first baseman once the season began, as he started all 60 games for Atlanta and led the National League with 477.1 innings played at first base—putting his durability on full display.
Freeman becomes the first Atlanta Brave to bring home the league’s Hank Aaron Award since center fielder Andruw Jones won the award for his offensive work during the 2005 campaign. Freeman and Jones stand as the lone Braves to win this award, who gets its namesake from the Braves’ legendary slugger, Hank Aaron.
While being recognized as the most outstanding offensive performer in your respective league would be a deeply humbling honor for any player, it has a deeper meaning for Freeman due to the award’s connection with the Braves’ all-time home run leader. “Winning the Hank Aaron Award is extra special for me since I get to put on the same uniform that he wore throughout his illustrious career. An incredible baseball player and an even better man. I am honored and humbled to win this award,” Freeman announced on his official Instagram page.
The Braves star first basemen’s career-best performance was buoyed by his top-shelf batted ball data. Freeman posted career highs in 2020 in various analytic metrics such as barrel percentage (14.7%), average exit velocity (92.4 MPH), average launch angle (17.2 degrees—tied his 2016 mark), xBA (.341), xSLG (.660), wOBA (.449), hard-hit percentage (54.2%)—while also posting a career-low strikeout percentage (14.1%) and maintaining a career-best walk percentage (17.2%).
Freeman has successfully transformed himself from a fine, respected hitter, to one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the game today—and unfortunately for pitchers across Major League Baseball, his underlying metrics suggest we will see much more of the same in the near future.