In April, Ryan Freel had a .262/.340/.321 line. In May thru the 27th, it is .245/.290/.404. Overall in 2007, Freel is at .253/.314/.365. His stolen base success rate is 57.1% this year.
Last season, Freel had a .271/.363/.399 line. His stolen base success rate was 77.1%. The current wisdom is that 75% success rate in SB is a point where the offensive team comes out ahead.
The Reds really can't afford to have a .314 OBP hitter leading off, especially when he is hurting the team with his base running.
Another thread does a nice job of documenting Freel's drop in value. (http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58347) The question here is why has his value dropped this year?
Here are several possible reasons:
1. Workload. Many have noted that Freel's production drops when he plays every day. Last year, he played in 132 out of 162 games(81.5%). This year, he has played in 48 out of 51. (94.1%). Is it conincidental that we see the drop-off of his stats as the season grinds on?
2. Age. Conventional wisdom is that most players peak at age 26-29. Freel is now 31. Given his higher reliance on speed and reflexes, we may see a faster than usual drop-off.
3. Bad luck. Freel's K% is down this year. (2006=21.6%, 2007=15.7%). However, his BB% is also down. (2006=12.5%, 2007=8.4%) His BABIP is down from .330 to .291. So even though Freel is putting the ball in play much more than last year, he is getting on base far less. There is very little change in his GB/FB/LD rates from last year. See this site: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx...&position=3BOF If bad luck is playing a role here, we would hope that it simply turns around in the coming months.
4. Lack of patience/poor pitch selection. As mentioned above, his BB rate has declined markedly. However, Freel is currently 16th in the NL in pitches seen per plate appearance. (3.99 PPA(779/195 ). See this link: http://stats.washingtonpost.com/mlb/...=211&Submit=Go Although his PPA number is down a little from last year, it is hard to make this case stick.
There are several factors in Freel playing so much: EE sent to minors, Hamilton on DL, etc. However, we are using him as an every day player this year, when he really should be our super-sub. Freel himself has acknowldeed this, and advocated for Hamilton starting in CF.
We really don't have great alternatives until Hamilton comes off DL next week. (May 18th was the last game Josh Hamilton played before going on the DL. Ryan Freel has played every game since then.) Then, we should get Freel some rest, have him walk more, and hope his luck turns....