While the 2021 season to date hasn't gone entirely swimmingly for the Atlanta Braves, their best player -- super(duper)star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. -- has never been better. Given the 23-year-old's prior excellence, that's saying something.
Speaking of his prior excellence, Acuña entered the 2021 campaign with a career slash line of .281/.371/.538 with 42 home runs and 32 stolen bases per 162 games played. At the plate, that comes to an OPS+ of 132. OPS+ is OPS adjusted to reflect league and home ballpark contexts, and each point more than or fewer than 100 marks 1.0 percent movement away from the league average. In Acuña's case, he was 32 percent better than the league average through the first three seasons of his MLB career. That's an excellent figure, especially for a player so young and especially given that he adds major value in the field and on the bases.
So far in 2021, Acuña has thrived by even his own high standards. At this writing he's batting .302/.399/.651, and he's tied for the MLB lead in home runs at 12. That line also represents an OPS+ of 172 -- again, thriving by his own standards.
What's doubly encouraging for Acuña and the Braves is that this new, higher level is looking sustainable. Yes, it's just the middle of May, and as such it can be hazardous to draw firm conclusions based on individual performances. In Acuña's case, however, the strength of his production is underpinned by metrics that become meaningful pretty early and suggest that he's here to stay at this new level, at least for a while.