Acuña Jr. hits ‘200 hits, 40 homers, 70 doubles,’ could win MVP award
The winner of the 2023 National League MVP race appears to have been decided. So far this season, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is hitting .336/.414/.596 with 41 home runs, 70 doubles, 104 RBI, 146 runs scored, 213 runs batted in, a wRC+ (adjusted run creation) of 170 and a bWAR (wins above replacement) of 8.1.
As the first player in Major League Baseball history to record 200 hits, 40 homers, 70 doubles, 100 RBIs, and 100 runs scored, Acuña has booked his first MVP award. Thanks to Aquino’s tremendous play, his team, Atlanta, has clinched the division title and has the best overall winning percentage in the majors. The eight-year, $100 million contract that Atlanta signed Aquino to in 2019 is being called a “stroke of genius” at this point.
Making better contact and evolving into a complete hitter
A big part of Aquino’s success this year has been his steady improvement in making contact since April. Prior to April, Acuña’s swinging strike rate was hovering around 24%, not far off the league average or his career average.
Since June, however, his swinging strike rate has dropped to 18%, which is among the best in the league. Acuña has also been able to improve his batting performance, posting an OPS of 1.039 during this time.
The reason Aquino has been able to reduce his swinging strike rate so significantly is because he has improved his ability to make contact against changeup pitches. His swinging strike rate against pitches in the zone was over 30% through May, but has improved to 21% since June. Not only that, but it’s a staggering 12% in two-strike situations.
As a result, Aquino, who was a high-strikeout hitter until last year, has seen the second-largest drop in strikeout rate in his career so far this season (23.6% change in strikeout rate last season/11.3% change in strikeout rate this season/12.3% drop in strikeout rate 2nd all-time).
With fewer strikeouts, Acuña was able to produce more hits (his first career 200-hit season) on a more consistent basis than in previous years. More walks naturally led to more stolen base opportunities, which helped him reach the 200-hit, 40-homer, 70-stolen base milestone.
Overcoming a weakness, the ‘changeup killer’ dominates the league
A big reason for Aquino’s monster performance at the plate this season is that he has improved his performance against pitches in the changeup family.
So far this season, Aquino has the most hits against changeups and the third-highest OPS in the league at 1.010. Aquino’s OPS against changeups is among the best single-season marks since 2008.
Launch angle and velocity distribution of Aquino’s batted balls against changeups (since June)
There are two fundamental keys to Aquino’s ability to maximize his strengths. The first is that by regaining his normal batted ball timing, he overcame a weakness against fastballs in the zone that was exposed last season (OPS change against that pitch: .603 last season to .923 this season). With his weakness against fastballs gone, he’s been able to more thoroughly prepare for opposing pitchers’ changeups.
The second reason for this is the improvement in swinging strike rates against the changeup, which I mentioned earlier. With the dramatic decrease in his swinging strike rate, the frequency of good at-bats against those pitches naturally increased.
One area where Acuña’s progress has been particularly noticeable this season is in his response to pitches that come in low and outside of the strike zone, the most difficult area for hitters to target. Through May, Acuña was posting an OPS of just .713 against those pitches. Since June, however, he has clearly overcome his early season weakness, posting a very high OPS of 1.035, coupled with an improved strikeout rate (22% from May to 10% from June).
His improved ability to make contact naturally led to better pitch recognition and a higher percentage of batted balls with ideal launch angles against changeup pitches (31% through May – 37% since June). This, coupled with the improved overall quality of his in-play batted balls, completed a monster season for Acuña.
The decline in his athleticism following the ACL injury he suffered during the 2021 season has led to a sharp decline in his defensive range. He still trails only Mookie Betts (LA Dodgers) in Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
However, the consensus seems to be that the National League MVP award for the 2023 season is actually tilted in favor of Acuña, who not only put up a career-best 200 hits, 40 homers, and 70 doubles at the end of the season, but also managed to overtake Betts in terms of offensive production.온라인바카라
After a monster season, can Acuña continue his monster performance in the postseason this year? It will be interesting to see if Acuña, now a part of Major League Baseball history, can lead his team to a second straight World Series championship and become the centerpiece of an Atlanta dynasty.