There's no other to way put it: Freddie Freeman's injury sucks. He's going to miss eight to 12 weeks, according to Buster Olney, and while Freeman won't require surgery on his fractured left wrist, that's still two to three months without one of the best hitters in the game.
When the Atlanta Braves' first baseman was injured with an inside fastball from Blue Jays reliever Aaron Loup on Wednesday, Freeman was leading the majors in slugging percentage. The title of best hitter in the game was really between him, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Aaron Judge and Ryan Zimmerman are the others who also have a slugging percentage over .700 in 2017 (Eric Thames is just under), but they don't have the track record going back to last year. As I wrote just the other night, Freeman's been on a tear since the middle of last June, when he claims everything turned around for him after he changed his approach in batting practice to hitting more line drives to shortstop. Whatever the reason, he's been mashing ever since. The best hitters since June 13 of last year:
Freeman: .476 wOBA
Joey Votto: .458
Josh Donaldson: .435
Charlie Blackmon: .421
The immediate impact for the Braves is that a mediocre offense -- eighth in the National League in runs per game -- takes a huge hit. Freeman and Matt Kemp had been one of the best one-two punches in the league. Outside of Nick Markakis (who has a .395 OBP but just one home run) and a fluke .473 OBP from Tyler Flowers, however, there isn't much else here, especially with Dansby Swanson off to a rough start.
To replace Freeman, the Braves have reportedly signed journeyman James Loney, which won't do the lineup a ton of good. Not that the Braves were playoff contenders. Even with Freeman and Kemp hitting like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Atlanta is just 16-21. The Braves fancied themselves as sleeper contenders in the first year of their new stadium, but that was never going to happen with an offense that had too many OBP problems and a rotation counting on 40-somethings Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. Colon has been awful (6.80 ERA) and Dickey not much better, so even the plan of using them as trade bait in July is unlikely to come to fruition.
For Braves fans, much of the future remains in the minors, especially in the starting rotation at Double-A Mississippi, which features 19-year-old Kolby Allard, 19-year-old Mike Soroka, 20-year-old Luiz Gohara and 22-year-old Patrick Weigel, all premium prospects and throwing well. So while it may end up being another under-.500 season, there is plenty of talent coming to mix in alongside Freeman.
For baseball fans, it's a missed opportunity to see Freeman pursue a monster season, maybe even an MVP award. It's obviously early and some of the numbers will regress, but we have five players slugging .700 -- the last non-Barry Bonds player to do that was Sammy Sosa in 2001. The last non-Bonds/Sosa/Coors Field/Mark McGwire player to do it was during the strike-shortened 1994 season, when Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Albert Belle all got there. It's also a missed opportunity to see Freeman at the All-Star Game, one of those likable guys baseball would have loved to showcase in the Home Run Derby.
Then there's the game Thursday night between the Blue Jays and Braves. The Braves lost their superstar hitter, there was the Jose Bautista bat flip and the Jays have plunked seven Braves hitters in three games. If I'm Bautista, I'd be wearing some extra body armor.