Freddie Freeman on Dodgers improves National League best

PORT ST. LUCIE — Freddie Freeman left the NL East Wednesday night, a nice result for the Mets considering Max Scherzer called the first baseman “the toughest hitter” in the division.

But Freiman ended up with the Dodgersmaking the best of the National League even better.

And that’s the ecosystem the Mets want to operate in. your owner has approved the largest payroll of any major for it now. So you’re in business to keep up with the best of the best.

Mets GM Billy Eppler said his roster-building philosophy is “ultimately to try to build your cumulative World Series ratings over a long-term horizon.” He said the odds for 2022 are much better today than they were on Nov. 1, before the Mets added Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte.

He explained that his organization runs simulations based on their schedule to estimate an earnings forecast for the season. The simulation focuses on a mead win amount, but takes into account the composition of the opponents. So this is what the Braves with Matt Olson and the Dodgers with Freeman look like.

Additionally, Eppler said he reviews some gambling sites, as well as places like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus, to gauge consensus.

To that end, BetMGM has the Mets as slight favorites over the Braves to win the NL East, Fangraphs has the Braves as slight favorites, and Baseball Prospectus has both with 92 wins. All systems have the Dodgers as heavy favorites in the World Series. Just in the baseball prospectus, those three weren’t slated for most of the NL’s wins — the Brewers trailing the Dodgers.

Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates
The Dodgers were already the class of the National League—Freddie Freeman only encourages that notion.
Getty Images

Overall, however, the Mets have entered the upper tier of these systems. That has been the case in recent years. Then the actual season turned out to be even worse. But as one NL executive put it, “The Mets were unlucky with injuries and bad managers. I think the projection systems are seeing a regression to the mean with injuries, better overall talent and depth, and a better manager [Buck Showalter]. That’s how I see it.”

At this moment I agree that the Dodgers are the NL team that needs to beat and favor the Braves in NL East. The Mets have closed the talent gap with the Braves, maybe even pushed it forward. But Atlanta has won the division for the last four years and the championship last season. Understanding how to successfully navigate through a season becomes part of an organization’s DNA. The Braves have that now. The Mets have to prove it.

What the Braves no longer have is Freeman. Scherzer was actually sad about it. He says he likes to compete with the best, and to the right, Freeman was the best “because he could hit any pitch.”

His loss is real for Atlanta. Olson is a good player. But he’s not Freeman.

But the Braves won the World Series last year with suspended Marcel Ozuna and injured Ronald Acuna Jr. News from the Braves camp has revealed that Ozuna, who has been suspended for violating MLB domestic violence protocols, has lost 12 pounds, as Atlanta hopes to regain the batsman who finished sixth for NL MVP in the shortened 2020 season. Acuna, who ruptured his knee last July, is expected back as DH a few weeks into the season and will be back full on the field a few months into the season. At the time of his injury last year, Acuna was among the NL MVP leaders.

Mike Soroka (Achilles) could be back by the All-Star break for a rotation led by Ian Anderson, Max Fried and Charlie Morton, and Kyle Wright and Huascar Ynoa have advantages. Kirby Yates, a top seamstress before Tommy John’s surgery, could be a gift in August.

“I see it,” said Francisco Lindor of the steps other teams are making. “But it’s none of my business. I know our team. We can play with anyone if we do things right.”

This is true. But lo and behold, the Dodgers. They lost to the Braves in the NLCS last year, but their recent winning streak tops Atlanta. Los Angeles has made the playoffs nine straight years, and the only time the Dodgers haven’t won the NL West in that run was last season, despite 106 wins.

New York Mets Francisco Lindor speaks with manager Buck Showalter
Francisco Lindor and Buck Showalter were part of a Mets move toward the upper ranks of the NL.

They will carve out a top spot in order of Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freeman – all won in the last two years – and Max Muncy (elbow) will return after missing the postseason last year. It’s a terrible lineup. There are rotation issues, particularly with the uncertainty as to whether Trevor Bauer suspended or not via the domestic abuse protocols and even if the Dodgers welcome him back if he’s not suspended.

“A lot of things happen by the end of the season,” said Scherzer, who was long with the Nationals in NL East and was partially acquired by the Dodgers last July to fill in for Bauer. “I’ve learned not to overdo it. The first goal is to win your league, focus on that.” Freddie Freeman on Dodgers improves National League best


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