By Kent Whitaker

The 2017 MLB season is only a few weeks old but for many Atlanta Braves fans, the year started off with a familiar collective groan. Coming out of Spring Training the Braves opened with less-than-dazzling performances on the road.

The team dropped two of three games to the Mets in the season opening series before dropping the next four games. They lost three games in a sweep by the Pirates and then lost the first game of a two-game series against the Marlins. Then something happened. The Braves won!

Since that win against the Marlins on April 12th, the club went on to down the Padres in an impressive four game series. Winning all four games took away some of the opening day week groans. Suddenly the Atlanta Braves are sitting at .500 on the season, which after a rocky start, seeming like a post-season run! One of the players that may be providing the spark the 2017 Braves need is Freddie Freeman.

Big-Time Player

Freddie Freeman has been with the Braves since he was drafted by the organization in 2007. He was called up in 2010 where he made a few hits and nailed a home run before being left off the post-season roster. Everything changed in 2011 when Freeman started the season at first base. He’s been a fixture ever since missing only a handful of games.

Now that 2017 is in full swing the power in Freeman’s bat is beginning to become a constant issue for opposing pitchers. He’s not blown up the stat book yet but he has lit the match. Speaking of lighting the match, they have some handicappers absolutely on fire over at Game Advisers. Go now and check them out.

On Monday night against the Padres in the final game of the series, Freeman went 4-for-4 at the plate. He logged two doubles and two home runs with three RBI’s. That was enough firepower to seal the deal as the Padres fell 5-4. The win brought the winning streak to five games – all of which were at the Braves new home Cobb Field.

Feeling Good

It seems like the Atlanta Braves have suffered a hangover the last several seasons following their dramatic worst-to-first miracle season where the captured the 1991 World Series. That team was loaded with legendary Braves players such as Ron Gant, Rafael Belliard, Sid Bream, John Smoltz, David Justice, Deion Sanders, and Terry Pendleton. Mike Heath and Jeff Treadway rounded out the opening day starters.

It’s been a long time since the Atlanta Braves put together that season and following the 2016 season, and the first several games of 2017, it looked as if things were plodding along the same way. Fans could feel it, players were beginning to look as if they could feel it coming as well.

Then Freddie Freeman started reminding people why he was paid so much. That’s not meant in a bad way – but Freeman has opened the eyes of Braves baseball fans that there still is a “Big Time” player on the roster and things are getting better. Freeman says it best about how the season is going so far.

"I feel good," Freeman said. "I've felt good pretty much since Spring Training began. Hopefully I can keep this going."

The Numbers So Far

Freddie Freeman left Spring Training batting around 500 and he’s not looked back too much. His four extra-base hits against the Padres tied an Atlanta Braves franchise record and it raised his season batting average to .400. He’s gone 18-for-45 and knocked out five home runs and four doubles so far. That puts him in a tie for fourth across the majors.

He’s second in the majors with his .867 slugging percentage, and has a .481 on base percentage which places him sixth in the bigs. This nice combination of stats puts Freeman into the category of being a great bat swinger instead of being only a power hitter. That’s something the Braves have needed for a long time.

Too Early to Tell for 2017

It’s too early to tell if the 2017 version of the Atlanta Braves will fall into the same pattern as the last few rosters have. What is easy to tell is that many Braves fans are enjoying what they are seeing out of the current squad, at least on their new home field!

The team is developing, players are producing, things seem to be coming around after a rough start and a team leader may be emerging in the form of Freddie Freeman. You can only hope for the sake of the Braves, and their fans, that Freeman continues to feel “good.” Freddie Freeman may be just the spark that the Atlanta Brave need.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called 'the Deck Chef,' is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on www.thedeckchef.com."

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