Ronald Acuna Jr. hit his 40th home run of the season in Friday’s 9-6 Braves over the Nationals, putting the star outfielder into some elite company in MLB history. Acuna became just the fifth player — after Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano — to post a season of at least 40 homers and at least 40 stolen bases. “At least” is a notable qualifier here, as Acuna also has an incredible 68 steals this year, the most of any player in the 40-40 club. (Rodriguez previously held that mark with his 46-steal season in 1998, to go along with his 42 homers.) As such, Acuna is the only member of the 40-50 club, the 40-60 club, and maybe the 40-70 club if he can manage two more swipes over the Braves’ final eight games of the regular season.
You need to go pretty deep into the record books to find a similarly productive blend of both hitting and basestealing prowess in a single season. Among all players in history with a season of at least 68 steals, Acuna’s 170 wRC+ is topped only by Ty Cobb (four times, the last in the 1916 season) and John McGraw (a 178 wRC+ in 1899). In modern times, Acuna is only the fifth player of the 21st century to hit the 68-steal threshold, with Jose Reyes’ 78 steals in 2007 sitting as the highest mark of any player in the 2000s.
Here’s the latest from Atlanta…
- Charlie Morton started yesterday’s game but pitched only one inning due to a sprain in his right index finger. The veteran righty will get an MRI today to further access the injury, though initial x-rays Friday were negative. The discomfort was enough that Morton was taken out of the game for at least precautionary reasons, as the Braves obviously don’t want to take any risks with a player’s health this close to the playoffs. “It’s literally, like, such a small piece of my body, and it could have a large impact on how I perform and if I can go, at least to a degree that I’m effective…I’m hopeful that in four or five days, I’ll feel good,” Morton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Justin Toscano and other reporters. Unless the MRI reveals something serious, Morton isn’t likely to be placed on the 15-day injured list, as that would make him ineligible for the start of the Braves’ NLDS matchup. It remains to be seen how serious Morton’s finger sprain is, but it isn’t ideal for the rotation that Morton is hurting and Max Fried (also sidelined with what seems to be a relatively minor blister problem) was just placed on the 15-day IL yesterday, though the timing allows for Fried to return in time for the start of Atlanta’s first playoff series. Morton is projected to line up as the Braves’ third starter in the postseason, behind Spencer Strider and Fried.
- Marcell Ozuna’s terrible start to the season, his down numbers in 2021-22, and his history of off-the-field issues led to speculation that Atlanta was considering outright releasing the veteran and eating the final year-plus of his four-year, $65MM contract. However, the team publicly expressed its confidence in Ozuna in late April, and that confidence also extended behind the scenes, as The Athletic’s David O’Brien (X link) writes that the Braves “weren’t close to cutting him” and “absolutely were not discussing” the possibility. It proved to be a wise decision, as Ozuna has hit .293/.360/.579 with 34 homers over 494 plate appearances since May 1. Ozuna’s 132 wRC+ is the third-highest total of his 11 Major League seasons, indicating that he has plenty left in the tank as he approaches his 33rd birthday in November. Ozuna is set to earn $18MM in 2024, and the Braves hold a $16MM club option ($1MM buyout) on his services for the 2025 campaign.