Conclusion: What About Steals!? Why Ronald Acuna Jr. Should be the MVP
We split a lot of hair in this article. Acuna and Betts both get on base at elite levels. Splitting hairs. They both slug at elite levels, we are splitting hairs. Betts is better on defense but Acuna isn't bad. Acuna is not hurting his team out there for sure. Both guys set the table for a great team.
The one thing the popular offensive metrics don't do is factor in the value of stolen bases. OPS is a bit arbitrary, despite being a great measuring stick. We know Acuna and Betts are both phenomenal at slugging and getting on base. We shouldn't treat steals like some separate stat on its own little island!
I used a spreadsheet to add the value of stolen bases as a total bases per plate appearance.
Here is how I calculated the number:
(1B + (2B * 2) + (3B * 3) + (HR * 4) + BB + IBB + HBP + SB)
Bases Including Steals
Bases Per PA
Ronald Acuna Jr.
So, like I mentioned, we split many hairs today. Two areas that jump off the spreadsheet are singles and stolen bases.
Acuna blows Betts away in singles while splitting hairs in slugging. 117 singles for Acuna compared to just 83 for Betts. SLG or OPS don't account for all the singles Acuna gets and then turns into doubles or even triples by stealing bases. If you factor in the damage Acuna does on the basepaths, he adds an element of the game that Betts just doesn't feature in 2023.
Considering how close these two guys are in all the primary categories, I think you have to give Acuna the edge for adding an element that Betts doesn't have.
Ronald Acuna Jr. is having a truly historic season. The man leads baseball in runs, stolen bases, on-base percentage, and hits. He is also fourth in batting average. He is the only player to ever hit 30 homers and steal 60 bags in a season.
Anything he does from here on out is history. That is definitive. Is it worth overlooking that for split hairs? I don't think so.