The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season. This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason. More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter. Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.
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Player: Sam Freeman
Season stats: 2-0, 2.61 ERA, 44 games, 38 IP, 34 H, 19 BB, 35 K, 1.395 WHIP, 142 ERA+
Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 2
Overall grade: B
Positives: Had the highest K/9 rate of his career, fanning batters at a rate of 8.3 per nine innings….had a reverse split as righthanders just managed a .518 OPS off of him in 30 more plate appearances than lefties….was pretty solid in high-leverage situations (.554 OPS) thought was even better in medium-leverage ones (.427 OPS)…smallest of sample sizes (five games, nine PA) but got better after getting past 25 pitches (.111 BA vs. .244 BA).
Negatives: Still has command issues, walking 4.5 batters per nine innings….as noted, had more problems against left-handers, which complicates how he is used….was left of the NLCS roster to make room for A.J. Pierzynski….was hit much harder in the second half (.797 OPS)
Overview: It felt like Freeman took a bit of a step forward this year. Matheny used him in some bigger spots, he was sometimes the first lefty out of the pen, and he got a lot of meaningful outs. He pitched well down the stretch as well, putting up an 0.75 ERA and allowing a .514 OPS against in September when the Cards needed some solid work to hold off Pittsburgh.
All that said, Freeman still defies a role. You can’t trust him in the late innings too much given his strong likelihood of walking folks. He was better against lefties (somewhat) in 2013, so it’s possible the extreme reverse split of this past season will correct itself, but until it does it’s tough to use him as a LOOGY (though, as we’ve seen, the Cards seem to be less enthralled with such unitaskers). Freeman still needs some experience and 2015 may determine what kind of career the young man is going to have.
Outlook: Freeman won’t turn 28 until the middle of the season, so he’s still got some room to develop, though like we said earlier today with Eric Fornataro, when you get into this part of your career, it’s tough to project a lot of growth. Freeman seems to have the stuff to develop into a solid (if not top-notch) reliever and he should get plenty of chances with the Cardinals next season to see if he can gain command of his stuff.