In part nine of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at gritty utility man Ryan Freel… THE FIGHTIN’ SCRAPSTER!
Freel came over to the Orioles from the Cincinnati Reds in the off-season – along with Justin Turner and Brandon Waring – in return for catcher Ramon Hernandez. The O’s expected him to be a utility player, moving around the diamond as a back-up at second, third, and all three outfield positions. Before the season I projected Freel to hit .254/.327/.353 with 3 HR and a .321 wOBA, while playing a combined slightly below average defense spread between a bunch of positions.
Freel got into 9 games in April for the O’s, batting .133/.350/.133 with more walks (5) than strike-outs (4) in 20 plate appearances. His Predicted OPS line from The Hardball Times, which uses batted ball info, strike-outs, walks, and home runs had him at .269/.311/.341 (relatively close to my projection, but obviously in a tiny sample size). On April 20th, Freel was hit in the head by a pick-off throw when he was at second base in a game against the Red Sox. He was placed on the DL, and that would be the last of his time with the Orioles.
After being disgruntled about something or other during his way back to the majors, Freel was traded to the Chicago Cubs for speedy outfielder Joey Gathright (who himself batted .329/.386/.376 in Triple-A Norfolk before being traded to the Red Sox). Ryan wasn’t very successful in limited time with the Cubs (.143/.226/.143 in 32 PA) and was traded once again; this time to the Kansas City Royals for a Player To Be Named Later. Freel hit .244/.306/.289 in KC and was then released, being picked up by the Rangers (for minor league depth). Overall, he finished with a .193/.290/.216 line and -0.6 Wins Above Replacement.
And because no one should be allowed to talk about Freel without bringing this up:
“Freel gained some notoriety in August of 2006 when The Dayton Daily News reported that Freel talks to an imaginary voice in his head named Farney. Said Freel: “He’s a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him. That little midget in my head said, ‘That was a great catch, Ryan,’ I said, ‘Hey, Farney, I don’t know if that was you who really caught that ball, but that was pretty good if it was.’ Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell ‘em I’m talking to Farney.” Freel later said that Farney’s name arose from a conversation with Reds trainer Mark Mann: “He actually made a comment like, ‘How are the voices in your head?’ We’d play around and finally this year he said, ‘What’s the guy’s name?’ I said, ‘Let’s call him Farney.’ So now everybody’s like, ‘Run, Farney, run’ or ‘Let Farney hit today. You’re not hitting very well.’” – Wikipedia