The Atlanta Braves are enjoying an historic season, thanks in part to the historic seasons of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson . This summer has been amazing! Both Acuña and Olson are having MVP-caliber seasons. Hear me out. If the season ended today, they should both be locks to be in the top 3 in NL voting, with old friend Freddie Freeman also in contention.
The Most Valuable Player award has become interesting in recent years. Most of the time, the award is given to a player who has had a great statistical year (and that should matter) but usually on a team that is mid. Take Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani winning the award as prime examples. They flash great numbers and their team still sucks. Take them off their team and they are still trash.
When I think of MVP’s, I think of people like Terry Pendleton. Pendleton won the NL MVP in 1991, on a team that was actually good – and without him, they wouldn’t have been as good! Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla (both with the Pirates at the time) and Howard Johnson (Mets) all had better OPS numbers than Pendleton, but if you took him off the Braves, they would have been in trouble. His value couldn’t always be quantified.
When I think of the 2023 race, I’m actually excited! It seems possible we get back to awarding the player who is most valuable to their team’s success…teams that actually win, that is.
Acuña is doing things nobody has ever done in baseball. Aside from the fact he doesn’t pitch, too, he is the best player in the game. Even though he doesn’t pitch, the case can be made that he is the best player in the game. He is currently a 6.1 WAR player and is hitting .335./.422/.5734/.995. Hr has scored 109 runs, has 161 hits, 27 HRs, 29 doubles, 73 RBI, and 55 steals. And oh, yeah, he has walked 66 times while striking out just two more times. He has been the catalyst and nemesis for the Braves all season.
But is he the most valuable? Hear me out…the case can be made that Olson has been.
In his second season in the A, Olson (.274/.385/.615.1.000) has been dominant. He is currently a 5.1 WAR player and leads the world in HRs and RBI with 43 and 107. The lefty power bat also has 21 doubles and has scored 95 runs. He is currently on pace to hit 60+ HRs and drive in 150 runs. A significant amount of that damage has happened since moving out of the two-hole. Olson spent a short time in the five-hole before moving to the clean-up role, where he has – well – cleaned up!
Hear me out. While Austin Riley struggled to drive in runs behind Acuña, Olson carried the offense. Riley continues to struggle to a degree in RISP situations, allowing Olson opportunities to mop up. Thankfully for Braves country, he has taken advantage of those opportunities time and again.
Acuña has been incredible, but hear me out…nobody can deny Olson has, too. Take either one out of the lineup and the loss would be felt. Who has been more valuable? Hard to say…I’m up for a bar fight!