Ronald Acuña Jr.'s improvement in two-strike counts is mind-blowing

As good as Ronald Acuña Jr. was in 2023, he has the chance to be even better in 2024.
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Three
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Three / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. had a season for the record books in 2023. Posting a total of 40 homers and 70 stolen bases while hitting over .330 was something that has never been done. A lot of his success can be attributed to his improvement at the plate in two-strike counts. 

We all know that Acuña is far from a “conventional” leadoff hitter. He possesses a level of power most leadoff men do not have and is super aggressive early in the count. As a result, Acuña does not end up in two-strike counts very often. Historically when he did, he struggled heavily. 

Looking at Acuña’s splits in 2021 with two strikes is astonishing. In 0-2 counts, he had a .056 batting average and tallied only one total base all season. His highest batting average that year with two strikes was .204 (in full-count situations). In any other count in which Acuña was faced with two strikes, his batting average was below the Mendoza line. 

While Ronald Acuña Jr.’s approach at the plate will continue to be attacking early in the count, he will inevitably be faced with two-strike counts. In his MVP campaign a season ago, the NL MVP raised his batting average in 0-2 counts to .385. One small adjustment to his approach at the plate led to major success.

Brooks Gate on X shared a statistic that is mind-blowing as Acuña has improved his OPS in 2-strike counts drastically over the last couple of years.

That adjustment comes from better plate discipline and pitch recognition. He is able to be less anxious at the plate and it's paying major dividends. His OPS in 0-2 counts has increased every season and in 2023, it was at an incredible 1.031 which was a 300-point jump from 2022.

It's almost like he feels better under pressure and thrives more in those moments. What drives home the point more is that Acuña was already an MVP candidate in 2021 before being injured and that was with his poor performance in 2-strike counts. That has changed and he is now the most dangerous hitter in Major League Baseball.

This is a great improvement because the more Acuña is on base, the more steals he can rack up, and the more runs he can score. If he is in scoring position more often, the higher the chance of the Braves winning baseball games increases. It is a simple formula that we will be expecting to continue heading into the 2024 season. 

He also cut down on his strikeouts which was a big reason he struggled early in his career. That is no longer a problem as he almost had as many walks as strikeouts last season. That is incredible.

Expecting Acuña to put up similar numbers next year may seem like a stretch. It wouldn’t be fair to demand that type of performance again. However, his Fangraphs projections for 2024 are nothing to sneeze at. 

Ronald has the chance to further cement himself in MLB history and the rest of the league better watch out because he isn't slowing down anytime soon.

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