At exactly the halfway point of April — April 15 — I proposed whether Braves star Ronald Acuna could post the best April in franchise history. At the time, Acuna had played 13 games and managed a “ridiculous” .442/.492/1.000 slash-line with seven home runs, six doubles, a triple, and 14 RBI in his first 59 PA. His 14 XBH then led the majors, along with his five straight games with multiple runs scored — a feat by the way that hadn’t been accomplished by a Brave since the mid-1920s. Acuna was the best player in baseball midway through April, and though his pace somewhat slowed through the last half of the month, it was far from surprising when, on Monday, he was named the National League’s Player of the Month for April.
.@ronaldacunajr24 makes it look so easy. He gets the nod for NL Player of the Month.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) May 3, 2021
Did Acuna pull it off, though? Did he put up the best month of April in Braves franchise history?
Unfortunately, no, he did not…
You see that crazy 1.492 OPS shown above that Acuna was able to post during the first half of April?… well, it’s too bad he couldn’t maintain that mark by at least 208 points through the rest of the month, as unreasonable as it would’ve been to expect such a level of play.
Acuna strained his abdomen during the second half of April, missed a pair of games, and then was slow to get back in the swing of things, going hitless in his first three games back. From April 16-30, RAJ slashed just .194/.383/.278 in 11 games, good for a .661 OPS. I don’t have to tell you that an 831-point drop in OPS is bad… and as we saw last month… it spoiled Acuna’s historic April.
But don’t get me wrong, the man still put up a really strong month.
Acuna’s April 2021
24 G, .341/.443/.705, 8 HR, 18 RBI
And though perhaps WAR or OPS+ or even wRC+ is a better metric to use to determine a hitter’s performance at the plate, I went with OPS back in April when I first brought this topic up, so we’re going to stick with it here. It’s simple, and it gives you a great idea of both a player’s ability to get on base and hit for power — additionally, it’s user-friendly to put together on Baseball-Reference!
That April slash-line for Acuna shown above equals a 1.148 OPS, giving the 23-year-old outfielder the third-best March/April OPS all-time by a Braves hitter since at least 1920, behind Chipper Jones’s 1998 season (1.150 OPS) and Freddie Freeman’s 2017 campaign (1.283). You can check out the Baseball-Reference table that I used if you want to play around with the different stats; like for example, if you sort by adjusted OPS+ relative to the major league OPS (or sOPS+ at BR), Acuna’s 225 sOPS+ last month is actually the second-best mark in history.
But who cares, right? Acuna still put up a damn good month of April. He has clearly elevated his game this season, most notably his plate discipline/approach, which is perhaps the most important takeaway from his performance in 2021. I was rooting for him, and he came pretty close. But I guess Acuna will just have to settle for being the best player in the league.