Analysis: David Freese has sacrificed most of his power for a new approach focusing on getting on-base at a higher clip, which has its pros and cons.
The Pirates have gone toward an on-base heavy approach in recent years and they have fallen behind in terms of isolated power (slugging percentage-batting average) and home run rate, especially as home runs keep increasing at such a high rate. From 2012-14 the Pirates were better than the league average non pitchers, but in 2015 that changed, and that gap has increased without the power bats of Pedro Alvarez (non tendered after 2015) and Jung Ho Kang (visa issues). They did have some surprise power last year in Sean Rodriguez and Gregory Polanco, but the rest of the players were either the same as they have been, or a tad worse. Here is the breakdown of that:
One of the players who was essentially the same was David Freese, who hit 13 home runs after a 2014 of 10 and a 2015 of 14. He also had an ISO of .142 after seasons of .123 and .163, so Freese performed essentially in between his 2014 and 2015 seasons, and about where his career is.
This season, though, Freese has seen a major decrease in power. His home run rate has gone from 2.6 percent in 2016 to 2.3 percent in 2017, and this is in a league in which the league non pitcher home run rate has gone from 3.1 percent to 3.4 percent. Freese was never a major power threat, but he’s even less of one now compared to last year with an increase league wide in power. His current .118 isolated power is the lowest he has had since 2010, when he played 70 games.
A decrease in power would be a huge negative if everything remained equal, but it hasn’t. Freese has seen his walk rate climb from 9.1 percent last season to 13.8 percent this season, and he has decreased his strikeout rate from 28.9 percent to 20.1 percent. Freese has been able to do this by swinging at pitches outside of the zone 24.8 percent of the time, his lowest since 2010, and having…