Ronald Acuña Jr. makes Major League Baseball history
This year’s major league star is Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves, 25. After starting the season as the National League Player of the Month for April, Acuña has been in the spotlight all season. Contrast that with the long-forgotten American League April Player of the Month (Matt Chapman).
National League Player of the Month
April – Ronald Acuña Jr.
May – Freddie Freeman
June – Ronald Acuña Jr.
July – Cody Bellinger
August – Mookie Betts
Acuña was also named Player of the Month in June. And in May, July, and August, when he missed out on Player of the Month honors, he didn’t lack for performance. His OPS was 0.934 in May, 0.918 in July, and 1.006 in August. That’s the best month for most players, and the worst month for Akuna. That being said, Yacuna’s season has been of a very high caliber.
He played in 153 of the team’s 156 games. In mid-September, he took two consecutive days off due to calf pain. His 714 plate appearances this year are the most in the National League. It’s also the second-most in all of baseball (Marcus Semien has 722). It was enough to shed the “questionable durability” label.
Acuña reached 40 home runs for the season with a leadoff homer against the Washington Nationals on September 23. It was the first 40-homer season by a leadoff hitter in major league history (Alfonso Soriano in 2006 & George Springer in 2019 & Mookie Betts 39 in 2023). Meanwhile, Betts, who had hit 39 homers before Acuña, was held to nine in 11 consecutive games and had to relinquish his title as the first No. 1 hitter to hit 40 homers.
Acuña had already stolen 68 bases. Acuña is only the fifth player in Major League Baseball history to post a 40-homer, 40-steal season. Jose Canseco in 1988 (42 homers, 40 doubles), Barry Bonds in 1996 (42 homers, 40 doubles), Alex Rodriguez in 1998 (42 homers, 46 doubles), and Alfonso Soriano in 2006 (46 homers, 41 doubles). But Acuña is the only player to have a 40-homer, 60-steal season. “Out of all the players who have played in the major leagues, I’m the only one on this list,” he said proudly.
Home runs and stolen bases aren’t the only records that stand out. Acuña is at the top of nearly every hitting metric. His 100 RBIs as a leadoff hitter is a rare feat. Prior to this year, only Darin Erstead (100 RBI) in 2000 and Charlie Blackmon (103 RBI) in 2017 had ever hit 100 RBI as a leadoff hitter.
Acuña wasn’t blinded by the record. He was greedy, but not overly so. His ninth-lowest out-of-zone swing rate in the league (22.6%) indicates that he picked out the bad pitches. This allowed Yacunha to have a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio per at-bat. His K/BB ratio of 0.96 was the third-best in the league behind Luis Araes (1.03) and Juan Soto (1.02).
Acuña key hitting metrics (league rankings)
Home runs: 40 (4th)
Stolen bases: 68 (1st)
Runs scored: 143 (1st)
RBI: 101 (8th)
BABIP: 0.336 (2nd)
Slugging percentage: 0.415 (1st)
Slugging percentage: 0.595 (2nd)
OPS: 1.010 (1st)
wRC+: 169 (1st)
bWAR: 8.0 (2nd)
fWAR: 7.8 (2nd)
Prior to the season, Acuña suggested that he would challenge for MVP this year. He was confident that he was as healthy as he was in 2019, when he finished fifth in the MVP race with 41 home runs and 37 doubles. But it was hard to believe that Aquino, who was far from MVP-caliber last year (.266 batting average with a .764 OPS in 119 games in 2022), was ready to go. The injury bug bites.
In 2021, Acuña faced the biggest test of his career. A torn ACL in his knee put his career on hold. An ACL tear is a serious injury that can take at least eight months to recover from, especially for a player as athletic as Aquino. He may never be able to regain his performance. Aquino cried every day, as if his career was over.
According to ESPN, it was his mother who comforted him. She said her mother constantly encouraged her. She kept reminding her that she could rise above adversity. She advised her to persevere through these difficult days and to believe in herself to overcome this hardship. With her mother’s support, Akunya did not crumble.
An athlete needs the ‘2M’ to make a leap. They are Mental and Mechanic. Akunya was mentally prepared by her mother’s nursing care. Then there was the person who helped him technically. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s father, Tatis Sr.
Last winter, Aquiña corrected his batting preparation with Tatis Senior’s advice. He lowered the position of his hands slightly and aligned them with his chest, so that his upper body was more parallel to the bat and he could hit pitches in the strike zone harder. In fact, Acuña improved his performance against four-seam fastballs this year after a disappointing previous season.먹튀검증
Performance against four-seam fastballs in 2022-23
22 [batting average] .229 [on-base percentage] .400 – 6 home runs
23 [batting average] 0.306 [slugging percentage] 0.606 – 13 home runs
Along the way, Acuña also put his fears of recurring knee pain to rest. It wasn’t easy, but it was a gateway he had to go through, and as he got stronger, he was ready to go. A good start to the season also helped her stay positive.
Once healthy, he quickly made major league history. “I’m grateful to be healthy and to be able to play baseball,” he said. Now that he’s more mature, Aquino has his sights set on something even bigger than this year.