Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. is the favorite to walk away with the NL MVP tonight. We have covered his phenomenal season from all sorts of angles. But what better time to provide a refresher on why Acuna Jr. is the clear NL MVP than the day of the announcement?
When will they announce the NL MVP?
You can watch the AL and NL MVP voting results on the MLB Network at 6 PM EST on Thursday, November 16, 2023.
Who are the candidates for NL MVP?
MLB.com has the top three candidates listed in the following order: Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman. Braves slugger Matt Olson will also get some consideration after setting the franchise record in home runs and RBI.
NL MVP: Acuna and Betts at a Glance
First, here's a very brief rundown of the top two finalists, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna Jr.
Ronald had better stats in batting average (.338 to .307), OBP (.416 to .408), OPS (1.012 to .987), total bases ( 383 to 338), strikeouts (84 to 107) home runs (41 to 39), total hits (217 to 179), triples (4 to 1) runs (149 to 126), and slugging percentage (.596 to .579).
Mookie edged Acuna in doubles (40 to 35), RBI (107 to 106), and total walks (96 to 80).
Mookie Betts set the all-time record for most RBI in a season by a leadoff hitter, with Acuna setting a new mark for second place. Both players surpassed Charlie Blackmon's previous record of 103 set in 2017.
Betts has the edge defensively but Acuna Jr. is not a terrible defender. Metrics really tend to knock his range or ability to make the low-probability catch, but he has a fantastic arm, and often times his safe plays don't get credit for preventing runners from advancing on missed attempts at spectacular plays. That's a conversation for a whole other time.
Acuna led the league in hits, stolen bases, on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+, total bases, oWAR, and real total bases.
The two players had incredible seasons.
Why Ronald Acuna Jr. is the clear favorite for NL MVP
On the surface, Acuna should win the award based on the couple of paragraphs above. One thing those stats didn't even take into account was stolen bases.
Steals provide a ton of value that isn't accounted for in OPS or most of the other metrics that are constantly flashed in front of our faces. Read a more mathematical breakdown of the value of Acuna's steals here.
In the link above we took a look at REAL TOTAL BASES. The formula included walks, IBB, HBP, and....stolen bases. Acuna blew everyone away with a .74 real base per plate appearance in 2023. He had 458 bases compared to Betts' 406.
We know that a man standing on second with no outs is nearly twice as likely to score as a guy standing on first. How valuable were Acuna's league-leading 217 hits plus his 73 stolen bases? It's hard to put an exact value on it but the NL MVP trophy is a nice way to measure it. I think Acuna wins this award without the steals, but once you add the speed factor, it's game over.