The race for National League Most Valuable Player was over long ago. The only question is whether Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. will be a unanimous selection. Here are seven reasons why he is the landslide favorite. (All statistics are through Thursday.)
Acuña joined Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Luis Arráez of the Miami Marlins as the first National Leaguers with 200 hits in a season since 2017. Acuña’s 213 hits are the most by a Brave since Ralph Garr tallied 214 in 1974.
70 stolen bases
Major League Baseball widened the bases this season to encourage more steals, and no one has taken greater advantage of the rule change than Acuña. His 70 stolen bases are the most for a National Leaguer since 2007 and most by a Brave since Otis Nixon swiped 72 bags in 1991. Add Acuña’s 41 home runs and you have the first 40/70 player in major league history.
.414 on-base percentage
Acuña’s on-base percentage leads the major leagues and should be even higher. He has only drawn 78 walks. If he can develop a better eye at the plate, his on-base percentage could skyrocket.
378 total bases
Acuña has the most total bases by a National League player in a season since 2017. In Braves history, he trails only one player in this category: the incomparable Henry Aaron, who tallied 400 total bases in 1959.
In previous seasons, Acuña has lacked plate discipline — in 2019, he struck out 188 times. This season, he has just 82 strikeouts, a key reason he will hit .300-plus for the first time in the major leagues. Arráez , who’s hitting .353, figures to win the National League batting title, but Acuña is right behind him at .335.
Success for Acuña has meant success for Atlanta as well. The Braves have had the National League East wrapped up for weeks and clinched home-field advantage in the NL playoffs with their win on Wednesday night. If they win each of their last four games, they’ll tie the franchise record of 106 victories set in 1998.
Contributing to teammates’ success
Because Acuña gets on base so frequently, he turbo-charges his teammates’ production. Four of his fellow Braves have at least 90 RBI this season. As impressive as Acuña has been, his 41 home runs and 104 RBI pale in comparison to Matt Olson’s 53 homers and 134 RBI. Who has Olson driven in 31 times this year, more than any other teammate? Acuña, of course.