Injury expert Will Carroll takes a look at Ryan Freel in today’s Under the Knife (subscription, but why haven’t you already?):

…I asked Joe Sheehan last night if players like Freel–the high-effort, all-out diving guys–are more danger than they’re worth. Find me one that isn’t always banged up or on the edge of losing his job. Look, you love having those guys around, but they seem fungible. My bigger question is about their tendency to affect the players around them. Norris Hopper came out of the collision fine, but what if it had been Ken Griffey Jr. coming over, or Josh Hamilton? If a player has to endanger himself and the people around him to play at the major league level, maybe we have to question if they really are at the major league level. That said, I think Freel is more like a J.D. Drew than a Bo Hart, someone who’s going to have to dial it back, as Drew has done, to have any kind of career.

Agree?  Disagree?

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16 Responses

  1. Matt W

    Working class players play big in Cincinnati. We love the gritty guy that has more fire than true athletic ability. I have pointed Freel out to my 11 year old on more than one occasion and said,”That is how you play the game!” It is fine when Freel throws himself in the third row but if there is a collision; there is a call to dial it back. ANd let’s face it; Dunn and Hamilton are probably coming out all right after a collision with Freel

  2. Matt

    Is that how you play the game? I think there is a happy medium between someone like Adam Dunn, who is too laid back, and someone like Freel who I think plays out of control.

  3. Matt

    OTOH, the play where he got hurt, I don’t know if I would call that out of control…looked like two fast guys going after the same ball…really just bad luck.

  4. Bill

    Plus, I’ll take someone that doesn’t make the many, many mental errors on the field that Freel makes.
    And I’ve never seen a player that dives so often for balls that he could have caught upright.

  5. Phil Rizzuto Parmesan

    I think his blue-collar, scrappy aggressiveness is part of his shtick to cover a talent deficit. The last two seasons he appears to have dialed it up a notch after discovering it was a bankable commodity. After all, someone had to occupy the empty space in the heart of jilted Pete Rose fans after they finally had to deal with the fact their hero was a lying scumbag.

    And, yes, I think his recklessness is a danger to other players, not to mention repeatedly being a rally killer when he’s on base. The accident Sunday was avoidable. The ball was in the right field section of the right center power alley and was Hopper’s all the way. Freel was burnishing his image. It’s lucky we don’t have two players on the DL as a result. And he’s lucky he wasn’t more seriously injured.

  6. al

    what a load of bullpoop phil. like you know freel was “burnishing his image.” hopper and pretty much everyone in the media acknowledged that there are those times when you don’t know who’s got it, and then someone gets it. it’s part of the game.

    as for the other critiques of freel, i’m certainly not going to defend him as a great player, but he’s a major leaguer, and if will carrol thinks that you’re not a major leaguer if you can’t do it without playing hard, that’s his problem.

    ryan freel has a career .367 obp and steals bases at a 77% clip, which is barly where you want it to be, but still good. his 162 game averages are 45 sb and 88 runs scored. it’s not mvp calliber, but it’s good enough for a major league leadoff hitter.

    to me, if the reds can get a player like that for cheap, then it offsets his injury risk. i’ve never heard anything about any other player being worried for themselves around him, so i think that’s just writing something to write something.

  7. GregD

    i’ve never heard anything about any other player being worried for themselves around him, so i think that’s just writing something to write something.
    I’ve not seen players quoted, but I’ve heard fans talk about & joke about it all the time. With jokers like Dunn and Griffey on the team, you know the players at least talk/joke about it. Most of them are bigger than Freel, so I doubt many are “worried” about it.

  8. Phil Rizzuto Parmesan


    Since Freel became a semi-regular in ’04, his OPB had been .375, .371, .363, .313. That’s not a good trend for a lead-off hitter whose highest OBP is barely acceptable for the 1-hole.

    While his SB% has averaged 78% for 2004-2006, this year he’s down to 57% (8 for 14). His walk total is unexceptional for a lead off man topping out at 67BB in ’04 and trending downward since (51, 57). This year he’s walked 15 times. Even without the time missed, that projects to under 50 for a full season.

    Despite all the scrappy aggressiveness, he’s just not a major league lead-off hitter. And that’s without considering the cost of his base running.

    He’s really not an everyday player and was at his best for this club in the Super-Sub role. Now that he’s on the wrong side of 30, it would be worthwhile to consider moving him at the trading deadline, providing he comes back from this injury soon enough to demonstrate he’s healthy.

    As far as “burnishing his image”, well, that’s just my opinion. But as was said earlier, fans like scrappy, lunch-bucket players, particularly if they are white. He’d be a fool not to play that up considering it netted him a $7M extension in April.

  9. al

    i just doubt that most baseball players are so premeditating when it comes to their on field image burnishing that freel thought, “well, i really don’t need to make this catch, but hey, looking crazy is what got me my contract, so i might as well keep it up and hope for another in the next 3 years.” no.

    and yes, freel is off his career norms right now, but the numbers you put up for his past three years prove my point, that he’s an established major league leadoff man, if not a star.

    16 of 22 qualified leadoff hitters in the major leagues this year have obps less than .374, so for the past three years, freels been right there.

  10. The Mad Hatter

    As an everyday player Freel hurts this club. Since the Trade when Freel pretty much became a regular his numbers have dropped dramatically and his bonehead plays and running mistakes have increased. Freel isn’t a everyday player or isn’t likely to become one soon. The best thing to do with him is trade when his value is probably at it’s apex (when he proves himself healthy and benefit from selling high instead of the constant selling low and buying high that this organization seems to prefer

  11. Chris

    1. I don’t think Freel intentionally hotdogs it to gain favor.

    2. I think (as Carroll alludes) that Freel’s talent level is marginal, and 1110% is the only way he can keep his job. And there are downsides to that effort level – injury risks to Freel, his teammates, and bystanders, and boneheaded decisions on the bases and afield.

    3. I’ve been saying this for a year now: Freel stinks when he plays too much. I’m guessing this relates to #2 – the guy just doesn’t have much margin for error. Take away a tiny bit of his energy level and he becomes a strikeout-prone, no power guy who gets caught stealing all the time.

    I value his contributions, enjoy his style, and hope they can resist the temptation to overplay him.

  12. Chris

    I went back and found this, which is one of my favorite all-time posts, just because the numbers I uncovered were so shockingly black-and-white. I really didn’t expect to learn what I did.

  13. nutsy

    To hint that Ryan doesnt have the ability to play at the major league level is a joke. I’d take an all out fielder like Freel over a conventional fielder any day of the week. Sure the risk of injury is great but the intangables that someone like Freel brings to a team is immeasurable. A pure sparkplug Freel has the capaility to lift his team up simply by the way he plays the game. The Reds could use more players like Freel that actually care and give their all in order for their team to succeed. In watching Freel play over the last 3 years I have yet to see him endanger any player around him but himself. But when an over anxious rookie eager to keep his spot on the roster goes after a flyball and slams into Ryan, we then seem to throw his all out style into question. He may not be a superstar but Freel is one of the more important players that the Reds possess.

  14. Chris

    I have to disagree about the “endangering others” thing. There have been MANY near-misses, though to all the Reds’ credit (including Freel), I think that there have been MANY MANY fewer near-misses than in years past. I also don’t put a nickel of blame on Norris Hopper for what happened Monday. Both guys were doing their jobs.

    I’d also like to respectfully challenge the implication that Freel “cares” more than other players. I think we read too much into the psyches of players, based on their style. As I said, I think Freel HAS to play the way he does to be effective. In the same way, a guy like Adam Dunn would probably be totally worthless if he was running around at 800 mph all the time. He would lose HIS advantages.

    We all have our preferences for the style of play we like to watch, but that’s not always the same thing as saying one player is a better person than another, or wants to win more or less.

  15. Phil Rizzuto Parmesan

    i just doubt that most baseball players are so premeditating when it comes to their on field image burnishing that freel thought, “well, i really don’t need to make this catch, but hey, looking crazy is what got me my contract, so i might as well keep it up and hope for another in the next 3 years.” no.

    I think he really thought he needed to make this catch going all out because that’s what Ryan Freel does and the fans love. He was in Hopper’s territory when he made the catch.

    Maybe I’m wrong about Farney – hey, it’s just an Internet opinion. But to say that people who are basically professional entertainers don’t think about their image and how to use it to their advantage doesn’t bear up under scrutiny. A few examples for the defense:

    Rodriguez, Alex
    Schilling, Curt
    Sosa, Sammy
    Martinez, Pedro.
    Jeter, Derek
    The Hit King (hey, I didn’t say all of them were good at it).

    The list could go on. And the above are stars. You could make a list of marginal players that were fan favorites for their respective teams, too, and profited from it. That list would start with the Ray Oyler Fan Club in Detroit in the ’60s.

    The real question – given the average major league career is less than five years and the average salary is around $2M – if you could use it to your advantage, why wouldn’t you?

    Nutsy, I never said Freel wasn’t a Major League player. I did say that he was a marginal lead-off man, on the wrong side of 30 and in apparent decline. Chris pointed out (and I said the same) that Freel best serves his club in a super-sub role where he gets enough rest to recover from his style of play.

    And the reason I want to trade him is not because I think he is no longer useful. In the right role, he is. Mr Rickey said it’s better to trade a player a year too soon than a year to late. That’s where I think we are with Freel.

    As always, YMMV.

  16. Y-City Jim

    I have felt that Freel is overhyped. For Cincinnati to be a serious contender, he just can’t be an everyday ballplayer.