Ronald Acuña Jr. sets Braves modern-era stolen base record

In 1991, Otis Nixon stole 72 bases, which set a franchise record for the most in a single season in the modern era (since 1900). This record stood for over three decades.

In the third inning of Saturday’s game versus the Nationals at Truist Park, Ronald Acuña Jr. broke that record by stealing his 73rd base after drawing a walk in the third inning.

Did Acuña ever think he would steal 73 bases?

“I don’t think I ever thought that I was gonna steal 73 bases, but I think the new rules definitely helped a little bit, as far as the pitchers only being able to throw over a limited amount of times and everything,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “I think all that plays into it a little bit.”

This was simply Acuña’s latest accomplishment in a season that should end with the National League MVP Award. He’s also the first player in MLB history to step into the 30-60, 40-50, 40-60 and 40-70 clubs.

Of everything he’s accomplished this season, Acuña said the stolen base record is near the top.

“I would probably have to rank it either first or second, just because I think it’s a record that’s been standing for a long time, and it’s something I was able to accomplish with the team,” he said.

What makes Acuña special is this: He’s a five-tool player with the ability to maximize all five tools. Along with the stolen bases, he has 41 home runs.

When Nixon swiped 72 bags in 1991, he hit zero homers. Over 5,115 career at-bats, Nixon homered only 11 times.

This isn’t a knock against Nixon, who had a successful career. It’s simply to point out that players like Acuña – who feature power and speed at the levels he does – are so rare.

Here’s another example: Of the players since 1900 who have stolen at least 72 bases, none had more than 28 home runs – other than Acuña. And excluding Acuña, only two of them hit more than 20 homers: Eric Davis and Rickey Henderson (twice).

Acuña is only the second player, since 2000, to steal this many bases. In 2007, Jose Reyes swiped 78 bags. He had 12 homers and 57 RBIs in that season.

Acuña on Saturday notched his 73rd stolen base of the season, a modern-era franchise record. The next time someone does this for the Braves, chances are his name will be “Acuña.” And if it isn’t, it’s unlikely the player will do it while also exceeding the 40-homer mark.

Acuña truly is a one-of-a-kind player, someone we shouldn’t take for granted.