The Atlanta Braves are only 9 games into the 2023 season at the time of writing this, but it's still not too early to jump into some early Statcast observations. From Ronald Acuña Jr.'s revenge tour to Sean Murphy's offense, I'll be looking into some percentiles that have stood out to me the most. Jesse Chavez isn't on here for clickbait, either.
1. Ronald Acuña Jr. is back
Coming into the season, one question Braves fans had was whether Ronald Acuña Jr. would return to pre-ACL injury form. Nine games into the season (as of this writing), the answer looks to be a resounding yes.
While his early season percentiles are more or less in the same range as his 2022 Statcast percentiles, the expected stats are far better.
Acuña Jr.'s xBA of .311 is 39 points higher than his 2022 xBA of .272 and his xSLG of .647 is 161 points higher than his 2022 xSLG of .486.
Hilariously, the Braves' RF is once again getting unlucky. His .436 xwOBA is 65 points lower than his .371 wOBA. He's already had four barrels go for outs. These four outs had an xSLG of 2.354.
Defensively, Acuña isn't quite back to his pre-injury OAA level, but is in the 35th percentile, much higher than the 1st percentile, where he finished 2022.
Most excitingly (at least for me), is the return of Acuña's speed. While 2022 Ronnie was still in the 82nd percentile in speed, averaging 28.5 ft/sec, he had dropped to 27.7 ft/sec in the final month of the season.
So far in 2023, Acuña is back up to 28.9 ft/sec, 9th fastest in baseball.
2. Orlando Arcia is an offensive player
Orlando Arcia isn't getting lucky offensively. Even though it might seem surprising he has a 117 wRC+ nine games into the season, his inputs have justified the results. The Braves SS is currently in the 69th percentile or higher in xBA, barrel rate, average exit velocity, max exit velocity, and hard hit rate.
Defensively has been more a mixed bag for the 28-year-old. Arcia's defense currently ranks in the 6th percentile by OAA, but it's been dragged down by an Opening Day where no one played defense well.
The Braves starting SS currently is tied with Austin Riley for the least OAA on the team.
3. Jesse Chavez is elite
You know which pitcher is 6th in the majors right now in xwOBA? Everybody's favorite journeyman reliever, Jesse Chavez.
In fact, right now, he's in the 80th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard hit rate, xwOBA/xERA, xBA, xSLG, K%, and BB%. Has he only pitched 4.2 innings? Yes, but it's clear there's something about pitching with the Braves that has given him superpowers.
4. Nick Anderson is also elite, even with a bad hard hit rate
Despite having a hard hit rate in the 2nd percentile, Nick Anderson has been dominant in his 3.2 innings.
He's struck out six batters without allowing a walk. This gives him 90th percentile rankings in xwOBA/xERA, xBA, K%, whiff rate, and chase rate.
Not bad for a guy who was supposed to start the season in the minors.
5. Matt Olson, wow
I've been one of the terrible fans who was down on Matt Olson last year, and he's shut me up quickly. His xSLG is .649. His average exit velocity is 99.0 MPH. He's hitting 59.1% of his batted balls hard.
Olson is in the 80th percentile or above in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel rate, and walk rate.
He's also in the 97th percentile in OAA, just for good measure.
6. Eddie Rosario has a better xwOBA than Austin Riley
The results haven't been there yet for Eddie Rosario, but 22 PAs into the season, he actually has better expected stats than Austin Riley.
Even with lower exit velocity, high whiff and chase rates, he has a barrel rate in the 75th percentile and an xBA in the 91st percentile.
His 21 wRC+ at this point into the season is not indicative of what we should expect from the 2021 NLCS MVP.
7. Sean Murphy will be fine
Aside from Brian Snitker's bizarre usage of the prize acquisition of this past offseason, Sean Murphy is hitting the ball as expected. Despite having a .176 AVG, he has a 99 wRC+ while severely underperforming his xwOBA.
His current offense is being carried by a 29.2% walk rate that's not likely to continue, but Murphy has an xSLG in the 60th percentile, despite only having three hits. He's also quickly shown his elite framing and blocking abilities.
While some fans might believe Murphy is a bust, he should begin to change some minds very shortly.