On a team featuring two players hitting .400 on the season and arguably the best player in the game for the past decade, David Freese sits in the shadows—something he has kind of grown accustomed to.
Few people know that Freese was obtained by the Redbirds in the trade that sent Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres. The 2009 season was supposed to be Freese's first full season in the majors, as he was expected to start at third base.
However, Brian Barden passed Freese up and Freese was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on April 20.
In 2010, the third base position for the Cardinals was virtually nothing other than Freese. Unfortunately, the kid suffered ankle problems all season, causing him to have two surgeries.
Freese only played 70 games.
This is Freese's year. The kid has been through a lot in his two years in the 'Lou. A DUI, being optioned to Triple-A, injuries—give him credit for keeping his head through some minor struggles.
So far, 2011 has been Freese's year. His basic numbers read .358/.391/.481 (AVG, OBP, SLG).
Lance Berkman? Matt Holliday? Those two deserve lots of credit for the Cardinals 16-11 start. They are tearing the cover off the ball.
But a team must consist of more than two hitters; yes, the Cardinals have Albert Pujols, but this St. Louis big three can only do so much.
Enter: David Freese, Yadier Molina, etc. The guys that pitchers don't necessarily worry about, but don't take lightly either.
Last year's World Series champion Giants had guys like Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez.
But is David Freese good or just catching some early breaks. In other words: Is he lucky?
Well, he's both.
The luck part has to be attributed to Freese's .458 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), which ranks third in the majors. This is rather high for BABIP and is sure to drop (especially because Freese is not a speedster like, say, Ichiro, who can gather a few infield hits here and there).
The fact that he's hitting .358 on the year is also incredibly impressive considering he strikes out in 25 percent of his at-bats.
Let's be honest: Freese is not very disciplined at the plate.
Granted, he's no Vladimir Guerrero, but Freese swings at 31.8 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, which ranks among the top 50 players in the MLB with enough ABs to qualify. He also swings at 48.6 percent of pitches he sees overall.
What do these numbers mean? Here's a simpler statistic: an 0.19 BB/K ratio.
In other words, he strikes out five times for every walk.
On the other hand, Freese leads the league in line drives with a 36.1 percent line drive percentage. This statistic can probably explain Freese's BABIP considering line drives tend much more likely to be hits than groundballs or flyballs.
Unfortunately, D-Freese commonly falls under the radar—both nationally and locally. Of course, he has three above-average players preceding him in the lineup (Pujols, Holliday, Berkman), but Freese doesn't produce all-around statistically.
One of my favorite sabermetrics is wRC (runs created based off wOBA). An easier explanation: an advanced runs created formula. Freese has a 14.5 wRC, which is not bad by any means.
But when comparing that to other role players such as Placido Polanco (22.3) and Brett Wallace (19.7), it makes fans wonder why Freese cannot be the fourth (fifth if you count Colby Rasmus) solid hitter in the lineup. He's very, very close.
Whatever you'd like to call it—skill or sheer luck—David Freese has undoubtedly had a positive impact in the Redbirds lineup thus far.
Even if he is a bit lucky, I'd sure rather be lucky than good; I'm sure he would too.