Bill Freehan

Positions: Catcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6′ – 3″  Weight: 203
Born: Saturday, November 29, 1941 in Detroit, MI USA
Died:
Debut: September 26, 1961
Last Game: October 3, 1976
Full Name: William Ashley Freehan

Intro

The only American Leaguer to finish in the top three in MVP voting in both 1967 and 1968, Bill Freehan was a rock behind the plate. He was the best defensive catcher of his generation and he had a good bat to go with his glove. In the 1968 World Series he was on the receiving end of the famous play at the plate that resulted in Lou Brock being tagged out. After his playing career he helped tutor Lance Parrish and managed the University of Michigan baseball team. When Freehan retired he held major league marks for most putouts, chances and highest fielding percentage by a catcher.

Unform Number

#19 (1961), #11 (1963-1976)

Quotes From

“Financially, you’re better off having a good second half than a good first half because then in the winter, when you sit down to talk contract, it’s fresher in the general manager’s mind.” — Bill Freehan, on why having a good first half and making the All-Star team means little in contract negotiations.

Replaced By

Milt May, who warmed the position for a year before Lance Parrish came along.

Best Season

Freehan hit low in the Tigers lineup for much of his career (usually 6th and occasionally 5th), but he still produced good RBI totals, especially for the 1960s. In ’68 he plated 84 runs on 25 homers. He batted .263 (roughly his career average), and was in the top ten in slugging, OBP, OPS, homers, RBI, total bases, and extra-base hits. He also won the Gold Glove Award and set AL marks for putouts and chances by a catcher in a season.

Factoid 1

On June 29, 1972, Bill Freehan scored two unearned runs in the same inning. With Detroit trailing the Red Sox 4-0 entering the ninth, Freehan was safe on an error to start the inning. Later, he slugged a grand slam to finish the Tigers eight-run inning, which resulted in an 8-4 victory at Fenway Park.

Strengths

Defense and durability. Over the last two months of the 1964 season, Freehan amassed 446 innings behind the plate without missing a pitch. He caught seven doubleheaders in a stretch of less than eight weeks.

Weaknesses

Running speed, but that’s typical for a catcher.

Milestones

Freehan hit his 200th, and final, career homer on August 24, 1976, off Chicago’s Ken Brett, in Tiger Stadium.

Lowest % of Homers came with Men On Base

For batters with at least 200 career homers: Player… HR (On/Solo), Pct Bill Freehan… 200 (64/136), 32.0 Rickey Henderson… 295 (98/197), 33.2 Paul Molitor… 234 (81/153), 34.6 Felipe Alou… 206 (73/133), 35.4 Richie Zisk… 207 (78/129), 37.7 Bill Skowron… 211 (80/131), 37.9 Ron Gant… 320 (122/198), 38.1 Jesse Barfield… 241 (92/149), 38.2 Ryne Sandberg… 282 (108/174), 38.3 Bobby Grich… 224 (89/135), 39.7 Henderson, Molitor, Alou, Sandberg and Grich batted at the top or near the top of the batting order for much of their careers, so it isn’t a knock on them to have so many solo blasts. But Freehan’s curious performance merits some attention. He hit #6 or $7 in his prime and there were players in front of him that rarely left themselves on base (Willie Horton and Jim Northrup, for example). Still, his low total of homers with men on base are surprising, considering that we know (thanks to Retrosheet), that he hit for a higher average with men on base during his career, than with no one on. Yet his power for those six seasons is consistent with his career mark – he hit 31 homers with men on base and 67 with the bases empty (31.6%). Zisk, Skowron, Barfield and Gant were all power hitters who for whatever reason failed to hit their share of two-run and three-run dingers. The “leader” for players with 100 homers or more is Bob Boone, who hit just 31 of his 105 homers with men on base (29.5%). Eddie Yost (3.09%), Jim Morrison (31.3%), Willie Upshaw (31.7%), Tommie Agee (32.3%), Del Crandall (32.4%), Johnny Roseboro (32.7%), Tony Phillips (33.1%), Brook Jacoby (33.3), Devon White (33.5%) and Frank White (33.8%) also rank high in “solo-homer percentage.”

Notes

While playing for the University of Michigan in college, Freehan caught three games in one day against rival Michigan State. The rare tripleheader included a morning game and an afternoon doubleheader. “He had enough energy left over to go dancing that night,” Freehan’s mother said.