Main league pitchers will at all times regulate to the gifted younger hitter who enjoys early success. The following problem for such a hitter is in flip adjusting to these changes. It seems the Braves’ younger star Ronald Acuña Jr. is doing simply that in 2020. 

Friday’s baseball occasions offered us with a well timed reminder of Acuña’s excellence on the plate, as he tallied three dwelling runs throughout a doubleheader in opposition to the reigning champs: 

In a manner, these three homers are Acuña’s demonstrated progress on the plate writ small. Every homer got here on the fourth pitch of the at-bat — i.e., in a rely that had been labored to some extent — and solely one of many three was on a four-seam fastball. That is notable as a result of pitchers at the moment are treating Acuña like who he’s, which is among the finest hitters within the recreation, and Acuña is responding by being a extra disciplined hitter. First, take into account how pitchers are attacking Acuña in 2020: 

  • The proportion of straight four-seam fastballs he is seen has fallen from 38.8 % final season to 34.4 % in 2020. 
  • The proportion of first-pitch strikes he is seen has fallen from 61.4 % final season to 54.4 % in 2020. 
  • The proportion of pitches within the strike zone has fallen from 48.2 % final season to 46.0 % in 2020. 

In order that, typically phrases, is how pitchers have tried to parry the man who hit 41 homers as a 21-year-old. Now here is how Acuña has calibrated to that prevailing change in method: 

  • Most critically, Acuña has drawn an unintentional stroll in 15.5 % of his plate appearances this season. In 2019, that mark was 10.1 %. He is by no means been something like an undisciplined hitter, however it’s an indication of an clever method that he is ramped up his selectivity in response to pitchers’ en masse resolution to work him extra rigorously. 
  • Final season, Acuña swung at pitches exterior the strike zone 24 % of the time. This season, he is chasing 22.1 % of the time. Meantime, his swing fee at pitches within the strike zone has remained roughly the identical. 
  • We famous that pitchers are throwing a first-pitch strike to Acuña much less usually. Certain sufficient, Acuña’s now swinging at first pitches much less usually — from 33.6 % in 2019 to 30.1 % this 12 months. 

The purpose, in fact, is to not take pitches and draw walks. The purpose is to knock the innards out of the baseball, so consider plate self-discipline as a way to that finish. 

So what occurs when, like Acuña in 2020, you efficiently lay off pitches designed to get dangerous swings and induce weak contact and as an alternative go trying to find fastballs the place you want them? Acuña in 2019 batted .269 and slugged .491 in opposition to fastballs; this season he is batting .292 and slugging .688 in opposition to onerous stuff.

Sure, the pattern dimension is small, however plate self-discipline indicators turn into significant fairly early. In Acuña’s case, they’re portray an image of a hitter who’s outfitted to, sure, regulate to the changes. 

In issues associated, Acuña on the season is now batting .279/.398/.628 with eight homers in 25 video games, which is sweet for an OPS+ of 163. Coming into 2020, his profession OPS+ throughout elements of two seasons was 130. Acuña’s base-running and fielding make him a extremely useful contributor even when he is hitting at “simply” superb ranges. Now, although, he is trying like he is poised for real greatness on the plate because of rising selectivity and data — of himself and of opposing pitchers. Ought to this early development proceed, then Acuña, nonetheless simply 22 years of age, may have a number of MVP awards in his future. 

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