By Evan Biancardi
Freddie Freeman’s been on fire to start the season (Courtesy of Twitter).
The season is still young, but it’s not too early to dissect players’ small sample sizes. For some, their unusual start to 2018 may only be a streak, but for others, it could be an indicator for what to expect in the months ahead.
The 34-year-old is hitting a mere .259 with no extra base hits to start the season, but perhaps more puzzling has been his discipline at the plate. Last season, Votto led the league with 134 walks and had just 83 strikeouts, but through seven games in 2018, the former MVP has worked just one walk and struck out six times. This isn’t the slugger’s only slow start to a campaign, though. In April of last year, Votto posted a .256 average and struck out more often than he walked, and in 2016, he struck out 23 times and hit just .229 through his first 98 plate appearances. Needless to say, Votto’s early-season struggles shouldn’t be all that concerning. He’ll likely be in the MVP conversation by the summer.
Unlike Votto, Freeman has seen a ton of success through his first eight games. He leads the league with a .564 on-base percentage and has 11 RBI and 10 runs scored. While this may not seem sustainable, his batting average on balls in play, which is often a clear indicator of a streak’s sustainability, is only 40 points higher than his career average. Freeman’s hot start can likely be attributed to his more selective approach at the plate and his ability to make solid contact on fastballs. He has been a relatively consistent hitter throughout his career, and if he can stay healthy, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be an all-star in 2018.
Lindor has been fairly streaky throughout his career, but his slow start to 2018 is still somewhat concerning. Considering his strikeout and walk rates were identical in 2016 and 2017, it’s safe to assume that his inflated numbers will regress to the mean at some point. However, it’s tough to predict which Lindor the Indians will get this season. Last season, what he lost in contact he made up for in power, raising his slugging percentage 70 points and his ISO 98 points. This had much to do with a 14 percent increase in his fly ball rate, but so far this year, the shortstop has posted figures more in line with his 2016 rates. His high chase rate and low contact rate are also noteworthy, but it appears to be part of an even bigger identity issue for the 24-year-old.
While Didi Gregorius’ strong start is more in line with what he did last year, Bogaerts appears to be having more of a resurgence at the plate. The former top prospect certainly took a step back last year, but he still managed to post numbers in line with his career averages. However, the man is capable of much more, and he has proven that so far this season. Is it sustainable, though? His .371 ISO far exceeds his .130 career mark, and his .423 batting average on balls in play is a tad unrealistic. Bogaerts may be the newest player to reap the benefits of an upper cut swing, as he’s been able to lower his ground ball rate by 17 points, but for now, it’s likely just a hot start.