I can already see the eye rolls. “2020 MVP Ronald Acuña Jr.? Really?“
Yes. Genuinely. Calm down Nationals fans.
Acuña has mastered a somewhat forgotten art in baseball. He plays with an immense swagger. Acuña hits moonshots. He swipes bases. He makes older fans mad. The best part? He clobbers the ball in August. Among active players with 200 plate appearances, only Gary Sanchez has a higher slugging percentage or OPS in August. Sanchez, an American League player doesn’t stand in the way of Acuña jumping to the pinnacle of baseball.
Am I cherry-picking stats?
Yes. With the season being shortened, a hot stretch could be the difference in a player winning MVP. It works inversely as well. A star player could have a cold month and his stats for the season would be below-average. In other seasons, the average game and average stretch of games mean less, but a stretch in the shortened season would be the equivalent much longer stretch in a normal season. An MVP could be won on a hot month, as opposed to months and months of consistent baseball.
With a player as exciting as Acuña, he should be a weekly national headline, with his jaw-dropping home runs or highlight-reel catches in the outfield. Similarly to Mike Trout, if Acuña is in the spotlight often, he is more likely to receive MVP votes. Trout puts up massive numbers and has the highlights to attract even casual fans. Acuña can accomplish this by putting up some ridiculous stats, while also having web gems in the field and 500-foot home runs.
The 20-20 quest
In 2019, Acuña fell just shy of a mythical 40 home run and 40 stolen base mark. In a shortened season, it will be impossible to get to either of those numbers, but the sort of new-age 40-40 season has appeared in the form of a 20-20 season. While Acuña would have to hit a home run and steal a base at least once every three games for all 60 games, it could be an accomplishment that warrants an MVP award.
Per many oddsmakers, the Braves are a favorite in the National League East. If the Braves were to win the NL East and place well in the NL standings, Acuña would potentially have a quick route to an MVP award. While players such as Trout have won MVPs on underperforming teams, it would be an impressive feat for Acuña to be the best player on a Braves team that wins 40 games in the short season. For every player like Trout that wins an MVP on a below .500 team, there are often a handful of players that are deemed the best player on the best team, such as in 2019 with Cody Bellinger.
What it means for the Braves
The Braves last had an MVP in 1999 when Chipper Jones lifted the award. Since 1999, very few Braves have had serious seasons in the quest for an MVP, but the most notable is the heroic season that Andruw Jones had in 2005. Jones led the NL in home runs and RBIs but fell in second place to Albert Pujols. Acuña has a good chance to pull out an MVP with a shortened season if he can capitalize and capture the hearts of voters.
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