April is a time for all junk stats, and I’ve got a fun one. Ronald Acuña Jr. is probably going to hold a lot of idiosyncratic records when all is said and done, and probably some not-so-meaningless ones too. But so far in 2019, there’s one thing he’s done that no one else has... yet.
xwOBA, meanwhile, describes what “should have happened” based on exit velocity and launch angle (and nothing else, no distance, or which part of the park it was hit to, or what the result actually was). If you hit a ball to the point where it’s a no-doubter homer, the xwOBA on it is going also be around 2.000, because an exit velocity plus launch angle combination that always yields a homer will have an xwOBA equivalent to a homer. (And, indeed, all but one such ball hit last year went for a homer, with the laggard being a laser ground-rule double.)
Here’s a list of players and how many balls they’ve hit with an xwOBA of 2.000 or greater this year (click here for the query).
11 players, 12 total mashed balls. Bryce Harper has two, and the Braves are represented with Ronald Acuña Jr. having one. So, fair enough. But not unique. But, let’s add one additional filter to the query, one that makes ten names (and Harper’s two moonshots) drop out. Here’s the query. Here are the results.
If you didn’t look at the query above already, can you guess what it was? No, I didn’t filter it for “Braves.” Rather, the additional filter was “direction = opposite,” i.e., balls hit to the opposite field. To put it in English: of the 12 absolute no-doubters hit so far in 2019, only one man has crushed an oppo mammo in this fashion: the legend himself, Ronald Acuña Jr.
Now, this isn’t the sort of thing to take too lightly — Ronnie might hold this particular catbird seat by himself for a while. Last year, there were only three such oppo mammos (Jorge Alfaro, Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge), and none after May 11. So Acuña’s Coors Field blast was actually the first such shot in nearly a year. Pretty cool.
And really, just look at the video. The swing didn’t look like it had too much effort behind it. The ball was crushed, but it sort of looked like it was flicked. Flicked all the way into traveling an estimated 434 feet, anyway. I wasn’t even sure it was gone off the bat, though Acuña sure was. When you’ve got easy opposite field pop like that, well, the Lonely Island boys said it best: that’s kablamo!
Bonus: last year, only 12 of the Braves’ 175 homers went the other way. This year, they’ve hit 14, and a staggering five of them have been taken to the opposite field. Only the Brewers have more (six), and they have nine more homers than the Braves on the year. The Braves were more of a pull-oriented team last year offensively, with a .356 xwOBA on contact that fell to .279 when going the other way. This year, the Braves are mashing with a .415 xwOBA on contact, with a still-great .359 mark when going the other way, good for fifth in the league.