Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Is it time to drop Freeman in batting order?


That a Braves' hitter is in a tailspin is not unusual.

That it's Freddie Freeman is like some nonsensical alternate universe.

Freeman has been one of the team's best and certainly most consistent hitters since 2011. He was the team's best player a year ago, hitting .319 with 23 homers, 109 RBIs and a team-leading OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .897. When he hit .397 in the first 18 games this season, all seemed well. Then came weirdness with a .227 average in 48 games and .188 in the last 23 before Saturday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels.

Maybe Saturday was some small sign of a turnaround. Freeman's ground-rule double knocked in the tying run in the ninth inning after B.J. Upton's bases-clearing triple had closed the Angels' lead to 5-4. The Braves ultimately lost 11-6 in 13 innings and Freeman's batting line wasn't great: 1-for-5 with three strikeouts, two walks (one intentional) and four runners stranded.

His season average is down to .273. Over the last 24 games, he is 17-for-90 (.189) with 27 strikeouts. Manager Fredi Gonzalez is thinking of giving him a day off, but should he also be thinking of dropping him from third in the order? It would eliminate Gonzalez' concern of having three straight left-handed hitters at the top of the order if he elevates hot-hitting rookie Tommy La Stella to No. 2, behind Jason Heyward.

I wrote a full column on La Stella for MyAJC.com that can be found here (free link) . He went 2-for-4 with two singles and two walks (one intentional) and was the only Braves' starter to not strike out out on Saturday (they had 15 whiff). He's hitting .377 in 15 games since being recalled from Gwinnett.

Gonzalez remains some cross between hopeful and confident that Freeman is coming out of his slump.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "You see games like that -- he had a couple of walk and the RBI double to tie it. I think he's close."

Freeman left the clubhouse quickly following the game and was not available for comment.

Players like Freeman tend to get the benefit of the doubt in these situations. But this skid hasn't been a small sample size.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.