St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese is viewed as more than a hero in his hometown.
His fun personality along with being a local talent who defied the odds makes him a definite fan favorite.
Of course, that doesn’t even take into account that little thing he did in 2011. Remember that? (Hint: It ended with trophies and a Corvette.)
As a result, you can’t walk through a shopping mall or Walmart in the state of Missouri and not see at least one T-shirt sporting a “23” on the back.
It’s hard to believe Freese could fall from the fans' grace, but it almost happened early this season. Almost.
After struggling through a minor back injury during an abbreviated spring training and a brief DL stint to begin the season, Freese didn’t look right from the start.
He looked uncomfortable at the plate and his numbers were showing it.
Monday, April 29, was the low point for David Freese’s early season. The Cincinnati Reds were in town for a three-game series to bridge April and May, and Freese was struggling—bad.
On April 29, Freese went 0-for-4 for the fourth time in a row. The hole he was digging was deep, and questions were beginning to swirl around about whether Freese was a flash in the pan or if he was a legitimate major leaguer.
Freese found himself benched for the final game against the division rival Reds as he watched a younger player with a hot bat make his benching an easy decision.
At that point, Freese was batting .163 with two doubles, eight hits, three RBI, six walks and 12 strikeouts.
Something had to change, and during his two days off, it appears something clicked.
Freese returned and went 6-for-11 over the next three games and showed he still has it.
After hitting .163 in April, Freese turned it around and batted .299 with 12 RBI, two home runs, four doubles and a grand slam. They may not be Hall of Fame numbers, but that’s a major step up.
Then, on May 17, Freese began a 20-game hitting streak—the longest in MLB this year. That’s a major turnaround for a guy who struggled all of the way through April. The streak ended Wednesday evening against the New York Mets, but it is still a significant turning point in Freese’s season.
To be hitting .287 in mid-June with a .360 OBP is a solid jump.
In reality, April was nothing more than an extended spring training for Freese, so I wouldn’t read too much into it at this stage.
In fact, his May/June numbers have been far above average. Over the 32 games he’s played during the period, Freese is batting .339/.405/.466 with three home runs, 17 RBI, 12 walks, 26 strikeouts, six doubles and 15 runs scored.
While he would have to get very hot to reach the numbers he normally puts up, the Cardinals should just be grateful that he finally came around.
To go from how he was playing to where he is now is just as valuable as picking up a free agent who bats .300.
So far, the Cardinals continue to beat the odds. When one player slumps, another steps up. When a player gets hurt, the replacement picks up the slack.
There’s no way to say if the Cardinals will continue this pace, but one thing is for sure: This team is very good. They’ve been far better than anyone could have anticipated.
The Cardinals are beating the teams they should beat and they’re even beating the ones who should be giving them trouble. What more can you ask for in baseball?
All stats from Baseball Reference accurate through June 12, 2013.