Braves: No reason to worry about Ronald Acuña Jr.

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Ronald Acuña Jr has been in a pretty notable slump since fouling a ball off of his ankle. The 22-year-old went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the rubber match against Baltimore, making him 1-for-21 with three walks and 13 strikeouts in his past six games.

As expected, overreactions are rampant, but Acuña is no stranger to slumps. He had a miserable start to the 2020 season, collecting four hits in July, giving him a .449 OPS going into August. It was the same story in 2019. Before exploding on his way to 41 homers and 37 stolen bases, he posted a .129 batting average in his first ten games. 

Back to this season, Acuña tallied three HRs in the September 4th doubleheader against Washington but has only collected two hits since then. It’s nice that he’s been racking up some walks, but he’s been late on pitches that he usually crushes. 

So why am I “not worried” Atlanta’s most significant catalyst is in the midst of a slump and has been striking out like crazy only a few games before the postseason in a heated pennant race? Well, anyone who watches the Braves knows all it takes is one swing of the bat for Ronald. 

On August 1st, after his aforementioned terrible July, Acuña went 2-5 with a double and a home run. He didn’t look back until his ankle injury. From August 1st to September 11th, his OPS rose from .449 to .998, and it peaked at 1.067 just a few days before. Ronald smacked nine home runs and walked 16 times. He also drove in 14 runs from the leadoff spot — especially impressive with the bottom of the order being as bad as it was in August. When I say all it takes is one swing of the bat — it means that Acuña is prone to go nuclear after making sweet contact just once. Like a deadeye NBA shooter, he just needs to see one go in. 

Also, a lot of his struggles could be due to the ankle injury he suffered. While it didn’t keep him out for multiple games, he was in a lot of pain, and it has to be mentally taxing to potentially be injured for an extended period of time again. Yesterday’s day off will go a long way in getting him back on the right track. 

Next up, Acuña gets a few games against the Mets and a trip back to Truist Park to see his children — the Marlins. He’s had a lot of success against both teams, so hopefully, this is the stretch that turns his gears before the playoffs, where he thrived last season. 

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