Atlanta Braves: Why Ronald Acuna Jr. Ranks in Bottom 5% in Outs Above Average (OAA)

We explain why Ronald Acuna Jr. ranks as one of the worst outfielders in the MLB when it comes to range. How does the SB leader have no range? We explain.
Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
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3 Reasons Acuna Doesn't Have Range

Ronald Acuna Jr.
Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The previous page only provided three examples. You can explore more at Acuna's Baseball Savant page. You can also see more video examples from earlier in the season embedded in this article about Acuna's defense. Acuna misses a lot of high-probability catches. He also doesn't make up for the point deductions by making the low-probability catches. He just doesn't have any range in the outfield.

When you start doing the math on that, it doesn't work out in Acuna's favor. The three videos I linked earlier in the article were worth about -3 OAA. Acuna's problem is he doesn't make up for those with any low-probability catches. He can't make a play that 99% of outfielders won't make so that number won't go back down to two.

He just doesn't have much range!

There are a couple of reasons he likely doesn't have the range you would assume the league's leading base stealer would have.

1. Reads

He doesn't make good reads. You can see it in the videos, especially when the camera catches him before he makes his break. Whether it is a high flyball or a line drive right at him (99% catch probability)... he's not seeing the balls well off the bat.

2. Play-it-Safe Routes

He takes a lot of play-it-safe routes. Many 50/50 type balls on the Savant page show Acuna conceding the hit and circling in to field it on the bounce. He doesn't really go for balls he isn't sure he can get.

3. Protecting the Knee

He might be protecting his surgically repaired knee. I don't think anybody is complaining about the notion that he is protecting himself. Between 2018 and 2021 he had +5 OAA. Since the beginning of 2022, he has -12 OAA.

Does This Mean Acuna is a BAD Defender?

If Acuna wants to play it safe on 50/50 balls then at least we don't have to worry about him diving and letting balls get by him. They don't have a negative metric for that, btw.

His lack of range doesn't make him a below-average outfielder. He makes up for it in other areas. In his career, he's been a +10 DRS right fielder and a +4 center fielder. This season, he has posted zero defensive runs saved in right field, which means he is average.

We love Acuna and he's still our MVP. This topic comes up a lot and the Heyward flyball seemed like another good opportunity to dive in. Sorry. Go Braves!