It appears that the winner of the 2023 National League MVP competition, which was more intense than ever, has actually been decided. Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has recorded a batting average of 0.336, 0.414, 0.596, 41 home runs, 70 stolen bases, 104 RBI, 146 runs, 213 hits, wRC+ (adjusted runs creation) of 170 and bWAR (wins above replacement contribution) of 8.1 so far this season. It’s in progress.
Acuña, who became the first player in major league history to achieve 200 hits, 40 home runs, 70 stolen bases, 100 RBIs and runs scored, is said to have booked his first MVP award in his career. Thanks to Acuña’s outstanding performance, his team, Atlanta, early on won the district championship and is ranked first in overall winning percentage in the major leagues. The 8-year, $100 million contract that the Atlanta club signed with Acuña in 2019 is currently being evaluated as a ‘act of God.’
Acuña’s contact ability has gradually improved and he has evolved into a complete hitter.
The biggest secret to Acuña’s outstanding performance throughout the season this year is that his contact ability has steadily improved since April. Until last April, Acuña’s missed swing rate remained at 24%, which was not much different from the league average or his career average.
However, since June, the swing and miss rate has dropped to 18%, which is among the highest in the league. Acuña also succeeded in improving his batting performance during this period, recording an OPS of 1.039.
The reason Acuña was able to significantly reduce his swing-and-miss rate like this is because his ability to make contact with breaking-up pitches has improved. The percentage of missed swings against breaking balls exceeded 30% until May, but has improved to 21% since June. Not only that, but in situations after 2 strikes, it recorded an astonishing figure of 12%.
As a result, Acuña, who had been a hitter with a high strikeout rate until last year, recorded the second-highest drop in strikeout rate in history this season (strikeout rate change of 23.6% last season/11.3% this season, strikeout rate decrease of 12.3%, the second highest in history). .
With his strikeouts reduced, Acuña was able to produce more hits more consistently and reliably than in previous years (achieving his first 200-hit season in his career). Getting on base more naturally led to the creation of numerous opportunities to steal bases and became the driving force behind achieving the record of ‘200 hits, 40 home runs, and 70 stolen bases.’먹튀검증
Acuña, the ‘breaking ball killer’ who overcame his weaknesses, dominates the league.
The biggest reason why Acuña is showing such monstrous performance at the plate this season is because his performance against his originally good breaking ball pitches has further improved.
Acuña has the most hits against breaking pitch types so far this season and has the third highest OPS in the league at 1.010. Acuña’s OPS record against breaking balls is a surprising figure, ranking among the highest in single-season records since 2008.
※ Acuña’s change-up ball launch angle and velocity distribution (since June)
There are two main reasons why Acuña was able to maximize his strengths. The first is to regain normal batting timing and overcome the weakness against body fastball pitches that was revealed last season (change in OPS against that pitch from .603 last season to .923 this season). As the weakness against fastball pitches disappeared, I was able to prepare more thoroughly for matches against opposing pitchers’ breaking pitch pitches.
The second reason is the improvement in the rate of missed swings against breaking balls, which was mentioned earlier. As the swing-and-miss-strikeout rate decreased dramatically, the frequency of making good batted balls against those pitches naturally increased.
One area where Acuña’s improvement this season has been particularly noticeable is his ability to respond to breaking balls that hit the low course outside the strike zone, which is the most difficult for batters to attack. Until last May, Acuña only recorded an OPS of 0.713 against breaking balls on the course. However, he clearly overcame the weaknesses revealed at the beginning of the season by recording a very high OPS of 1.035 along with an improvement in his strikeout rate since June (22% until May – 10% since June).
As contact ability improved, pitch recognition naturally improved, and the percentage of balls with ideal launch angles made against breaking balls also increased (31% until May – 37% after June). As a result, the overall batting quality of the increased number of in-play balls improved, completing Acuña’s monster season.
After suffering a cruciate ligament injury during the 2021 season, his defensive range was drastically reduced due to a decline in athletic ability.
In terms of contribution to wins compared to replacement players (WAR), he still falls behind Mookie Betts (LA Dodgers) by a narrow margin.
However, at the end of the season, he not only set unprecedented records of ‘200 hits, 40 home runs, and 70 stolen bases’, but also succeeded in chasing Betts in batting production, so the prevailing opinion is that the MVP of the National League in the intense 2023 season was actually tilted toward Acuña. .
Can Acuña, who had a monster season, continue his monster performance in this year’s postseason?
Attention is focused on whether Acuña, who has become a part of major league history, will lead his team to the World Series championship for the first time in two years and be at the center of Atlanta’s dynasty construction.