For Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman, leading MLB in batting average is ‘kind of cool’

LOS ANGELES ― By his own admission, Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman didn’t grow up paying attention to the statistics of his favorite baseball players. He grew up rooting for his hometown team, the Angels, and his favorite player, outfielder Garret Anderson.

The Orange County native was more philosophical than rhapsodic Friday as he reflected on the significance of leading the major leagues in batting average. Freeman began the weekend ahead of the New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil, .327 to .322, among qualified National League hitters.

If he maintains his lead, Freeman will be the second Dodger in as many seasons to claim the NL batting title. Trea Turner finished the 2021 season with a .328 average. Prior to that, the last Dodger to win a batting title was Tommy Davis in 1963. But the historical significance of the accomplishment isn’t front and center in Freeman’s mind.

“I guess it would be kind of cool,” Freeman said. “It would mean more to my dad. My dad wants me to win it.”

Perhaps that’s no surprise. There tends to be a generation gap when it comes to appreciating batting average. For most of the 20th century, tracking the top of the AL and NL leaderboards was fodder for September headlines. Today’s batting average champions are not nearly as celebrated.

Freeman said he’s more concerned with a different set of statistical milestones.

“I set out to play 162 (games),” he said. “That’s the main objective. If you do that, you’ve stayed healthy, usually the numbers are going to be there on the back of your baseball card.

“My goal is to score 100 and drive in 100 and have a .900 OPS. Those mean something to me. A .900 OPS means something to me because that’s my job. That’s really what they brought me in to do, and to be in the middle of the lineup: hit .300, drive in 100, score 100, .900 OPS. If you have that every single year you should be all right.”

Freeman didn’t know the gap between himself and McNeil, but he did know his RBI total going into the weekend (three shy of 100). RBIs, he said, contribute more directly to team wins than a high batting average.

“This is a team sport but it’s around an individual too,” Freeman said. “Runner on second, nobody out, you’ve got to get him over. That’s the goal. In the course of 162, if you do those things, you’ll help your team win a lot of ball games.”

CAMPY AWARD

Freeman was chosen the winner of the 17th annual Roy Campanella Award, which is given to the Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher.

The award, which was voted upon by Dodger uniformed personnel, will be presented to Freeman by Campanella’s daughter, Joni Campanella Roan, and his grandson, JT Campanella, during pregame ceremonies Tuesday.

ALSO

Tony Gonsolin (forearm) threw a bullpen in advance of his scheduled return on Monday. … Dustin May (back) also threw a bullpen. … Blake Treinen (shoulder) played catch from up to 120 feet, Manager Dave Roberts said. … A special pregame ceremony Saturday honoring Jaime Jarrín will be held on the field beginning at 5:05 p.m. The Hall of Famer is retiring after this season, his 64th as the Dodgers’ Spanish-language play-by-play broadcaster. … Guests scheduled to appear include Senator Alex Padilla, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, Fernando Valenzuela, Pepe Yñiguez, and actor Edward James Olmos.

UP NEXT

Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland, 9-11, 4.63 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Michael Grove, 1-0, 4.07), Saturday, 6:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM