No matter what happens, the 2020 season will be one for the history books.
It’s been 26 years since MLB saw an inconsistent season like 2020, albeit due to the infamous strike, rather than a global pandemic, making it the first time in those 26 years that MLB will not see its total of 162 games played. Last time this happened, though, it ended up working out for the Braves.
Turn Back Time
Let’s turn back the clock a bit. It’s 1994; Ted Turner is the majority owner of the Braves; the likes of Ace of Base and Boyz II Men are topping the music charts, and the MLB season is cut short due to negotiation issues between the players and owners.
In that 114 game campaign, the Braves went 68-46 and finished second in their division. Hall of Fame GM John Schuerholz traded Deion Sanders to Cincinnati for Roberto Kelly and Roger Ethridge. Chip Caray’s dad Skip runs the call with radio legend Joe Simpson, and Greg Maddux is doing what he does best; dominating batters and earning himself another Cy Young award.
The shortened season didn’t seem to phase the Braves, as they still finished strong and maintained their reputation as one of the forces to be reckoned with in the world of baseball, and, of course, we all know what happened the following season in 1995. They say history repeats itself, right? Well, let’s hope so.
Anyway, the Braves are a few short weeks from beginning the 60-game season, implemented by commissioner Rob Manfred. 60 games, even though it means we’ll see baseball, will hinder the most captivating of athletes to a shortened output in stats. Though, one young superstar is still poised to make history this season. You may have heard of him, too.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 7, 2020
In less than 240 characters, Mark Bowman gave Braves fans everywhere something to be excited about.
The dreadlocked one-man-show that is Ronald Acuna Jr. can join Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout and Braves legend Andruw Jones as one of only four players to reach 80 HR and 70 SB by the young age of 22.
Even with the lack of output that we’ll see in 2020, Ronald still can make history. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone who knows his name, but it’s always fascinating to hear, and it’s reachable, especially by the young phenom.
Ronald Acuna Jr is transcending the game of baseball, even at the young age of 22. He’s already made quite a name for himself in only two seasons, letting his stats speak for him and helping put Atlanta back on the map as a serious contender.
2018-2019 stats: .285 AVG, 67 HR, 165 RBI, 53 SB, .365/..532/.897 slash line, 130 OPS+ and 9.9 career WAR.
With these already cemented in the books, his potential path to history is wide open. Acuna only needs 13 HR and 17 SB this season to join the elite list mentioned above. Even with the shortened season, these numbers are very doable, especially from someone as electrifying as Acuna, who is the closest player to a 40/40 season in recent history. What will his 2020 numbers look like with the shortened season, though?
Well, to figure that out, we’re going to call on the help of a writer’s worst enemy:
Author Projection: 211 AB, .289 BA, .365 OBP, 14 HR, 14 SB
The 60 game season will undoubtedly draw lower stats than we’ve seen in a long time. The highest projected number of home runs is 25, tied to the reigning ROY Pete Alonso.
Where do these numbers come from, though?
Shortening the games from 162 to 60, relatively more than half, effectively shrinks the projected number of at-bats from 626 to 211. Doing simple division, we can see that Acuna’s home run per at-bat is 15.268, or 15, for the sake of rounding. Over the last two seasons, this number of 1 home run per 15 at-bats has stayed relatively consistent with his output.
Keeping with the same stat gathering trend, we find the corresponding average of 1 home run per 15 at-bats within a projected 227 at-bats divided by 14 home runs (15.071). Acuna has proven himself to be a consistent player in his two short seasons, so it’s prudent to assume this calculated output is appropriate.
We can use the same type of math to determine his stolen base projections as well. If we take his previous years’ stolen bases (37) and multiply it by his on-base percentage (.365), we come up with 13.505, or, for the sake of rounding, 1 stolen base every 14 times he reached base.
For consistency, let’s divide this number by 2.75, to account for the limited number of at-bats in 2020. That gives us 5.09, or 5. Using more simple math by averaging Acuna’s past two years of OBP, we get .365. Using the same type of math as we did earlier (.365×15), we get 5.11, or 5, keeping with the same consistency trend.
Now, I’m not saying he can’t reach this historic feat; if anyone’s got the potential to do it, it’s him. I’m just sticking with the numbers he’s put out over the last couple of years and adjusting it to the shortened season. I’d love to see that number proven wrong, though; no one wants to see him reach this milestone more than me.
ESPN: 211 AB, .284 AVG, .369 OBP, 15 HR, 12 SB
ESPN uses a similar procedure to determine stats, but with a bit of a twist.
They look into three-year averages to determine projections while using similar math above and comparing the numbers to comparable players and teammates, factoring in lineup placements and different splits. Averaging out Acuna’s last couple of years with their unique blend of ESPN analysis, they came up with the numbers above.
His projections for steals remain a bit low, as we can see. But, like I was saying, Acuna has a knack for shattering expectations.
We’re still a few weeks away from seeing the first pitch of 2020. While the COVID cases continue to spike, MLB and the respective teams are doing everything they can to ensure everyone’s safety. And even though more than a few players have tested positive, it’s believed the season will happen.
The Braves’ first game is scheduled for July 24th at 4:10 against the New York Mets. Tune in to SportsTalkATL on game day for in-game coverage, and stay tuned until then for COVID updates, player analysis, and breaking news.