Back in May, we had no idea when -- or even if -- baseball would return for the 2020 season. As such, I was left sitting around and pondering things like how much the shortened season would impact current players who might be in the process of putting together a Hall of Fame resume. One of them I covered was the 2020 NL MVP, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.
What's funny in looking back at what I wrote was how Freeman was lacking the hardware for a "peak" Hall of Fame case and instead likely needed to go the way of a compiler. Toward the beginning:
To be clear, Freeman is currently short of the Hall of Fame. He's been an excellent player for nine-plus seasons, but he's only been to four All-Star Games and hasn't finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. As such, his case a peak performer falls short. That means Freeman's case rests on his ability to be a compiler.
No, that's not a dirty word. But if you're still in denial, consider this: Hank Aaron was a compiler. He never hit 50 homers in a season and only topped 45 once, but he hit 755 in his career.
Now, I stand by everything I wrote in there. Everything I said was true and much still applies. It's just that by going out and winning the 2020 NL MVP with a ridiculous season, Freeman has changed the calculus a bit. He now has hardware and that impresses lots of voters once they get beyond the numbers. It is 100 percent going to matter if Freeman gets to the point of being a fringe candidate.
While we're here, let's examine where he stands on that front. Keep in mind Freeman is heading to his age-31 season and he's the type of player (a corner bat without a worrisome body type who could eventually fall back to a DH spot) who should age well with the bat.
First off, I'll update a section from my previous look at Freeman and the Hall of Fame.
- 1,524 career hits means he has a good shot to get to 2,500-plus
- 342 doubles means he can probably get to 500
- 240 homers means he can get north of 400
- 858 RBI means he has a shot at 1,500
- Ditto to 849 runs and 1,500
There have only been 20 players in MLB history with 2,500 hits, 500 doubles, 400 homers, 1,500 RBI and 1,500 runs. Here they are:
Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Dave Winfield, Rafael Palmeiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Carlos Beltran, Manny Ramirez and Adrian Beltre.
Even if Freeman falls short somewhere here, it's obvious that he's built the foundation of a Hall of Fame case with his counting stats.
He is respectable on a rate stat basis. His .295 average has him around the likes of Jeff Bagwell and Orlando Cepeda while leading Eddie Murray and Jim Thome comfortably. The .383 on-base is pretty well ahead of Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. The .509 slugging is actually between McCovey and Killebrew. When we adjust for ballpark and era, the 139 career OPS+ for Freeman is well ahead of Murray, Tony Perez and a few others, though it's lacking when compared to some of the titans at first base.
That's where the compiling and the MVP come in. Every Hall of Fame case is a complete picture. On a rate stat basis, Freeman would work, but he's not really sitting on a case that would be an easy one. If he can hang around in the same territory he is right now while continuing to chip away on the above counting stats, we can start to see a path to enshrinement.
Further, look how well set up this Braves team is to contend for the near future. Expect them to make a few more deep playoff runs. Can Freeman build on his stellar 2020 NLCS (.360 with three doubles, two homers and six RBI in seven games) and eventually win a ring (or more?). We've seen what prominent postseason performances can do to help Hall of Fame cases.
And, of course, there is the 2020 MVP.
It looks like Freeman will have a shot to get in the conversation regarding whether he's a Hall of Famer or not, should his career continue on its current path. If that's the case, this MVP will be a nice boost in his favor.