Acuña stretches incredible record at exactly the right time
Already in the history books, Ronald Acuña Jr creates a new high with MLB’s first ever 40/70 season in clutch situational baseball.
In a moment of brilliance, Ronald Acuña Jr did what he said was improbable only a few short weeks ago in stealing his 70th base of the season. Already in an exclusive club of one, he now extends that club to a new height not likely to be matched any time soon.
Acuña has achieved MLB’s first ever 40/70 season. No player has ever hit 40 or more home runs and stolen 70 or more bases in the same season.
Debunking the myth
Already the naysayers are out in force, so allow me to start there. Yes, stealing is different this season. Pick off limits imposed on pitchers in Rob Manfred’s contentious radical redesign of baseball’s rulebook have increased the number of stolen bases and the perceived “ease” of stealing them.
But please allow me to retort. First, and most obvious is that you still have to actually steal the base. Professional pitchers and catchers are not just some guys from the bar. They know the deal. In a base stealing situation where he has already made his two allotted pick moves, the pitcher will often choose to go with heat rather than breaking pitches in the dirt. The catcher, likewise, isn’t the fat kid who has nowhere else to play. They are elite athletes, with world-class arms and are the best in the world at what they do. Not among the best. THE best.
Secondly, for those fans who say it is too easy now, well, if it is so easy, then why aren’t more players doing it? Of the speediest players in the league, those who are the biggest base stealing threats, only Esteury Ruiz with 65 stolen bases is within spitting distance of Acuña. Behind him is Corbin Carroll with 51, the only other player with over a half century in this category.
And of course, the record is for the double achievement of stolen bases AND home runs. Ruiz has only five bombs this season, while Carroll is at 25. Home run leader Matt Olson has stolen just one base this season, while Pete Alonso, Kyle Schwarber, and Shohei Ohtani, the only other players with over 40 home runs, have stolen just 24 bases combined.
What makes Acuña’s new record so impressive is that it came not at the tail end of a meaningless season, or in the middle of a blowout game, but as a key element in a key win for the Braves.
The Chicago Cubs needed to win in order to keep their Wild Card hopes alive, while the Braves needed the win in order to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with Kevin Pillar on third and trailing by one run, the Braves needed a hit. And Ronald Acuña Jr provided one. Not a shot for the bleachers, not a “I only want home runs” swing. But just bat-to-ball, inside-out, put-it-in-play hit.
Acuña’s hit tied the game.
And then, in a moment when everybody knew he was going to run, he ran anyway. The pitcher, fellow Venezuelan Daniel Palencia, could have picked over to first but didn’t. The catcher, Brazilian Yan Gomes has a great arm. He has thrown out 23 baserunners trying to steal this season and made a great throw to second. Acuña simply beat it.
The very next pitch, Ozzie Albies hit a single to right field, scoring Acuña to walk off the win. Not the next batter, not a few pitches away, but the very next pitch. And with that, the Atlanta Braves secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
No matter who you support, no matter where your allegiance lies, you must admit that the Braves are an exceptional team. And Ronald Acuña Jr is the right man, at exactly the right time. For the Braves and for MLB in general.
Fans everywhere, tip your hat. Ronald Acuña Jr has earned it.