After looking up stats over the past couple of years, I came up with the following cast of characters as being those with the most legitimate shot at reaching this mark:
Player HR SB FB% HR/FB ASD* Pull SB%
Beltran, Carlos 27 25 33.3% 15.7% 394.6 gap 89%
Holliday, Matt 25 28 32.7% 17.5% 408.4 center 93%
McLouth, Nate 26 23 46.9% 10.9% 389.2 line 89%
Ramirez, Hanley 33 35 36.7% 19.2% 405.5 gap 75%
Rios, Alex 15 32 38.3% 7.4% 389.7 line 80%
Rollins, Jimmy ('07) 30 41 44.2% 10.7% 375.3 line 87%
Sizemore, Grady 33 38 45.7% 14.5% 387.4 line 88%
* = Average Standard Distance; an average distance of homeruns, in feet, that neutralizes external factors like weather and ballpark
What strikes me about this list is that, with the exception of Holliday, these are not guys who are known primarily for their power, nor will they likely ever be known for their power. Beltran has been a prolific power hitter at times throughout his career, but I still think of him as a “speed” guy more than a “power” guy. This is worth noting because of the members of the 40/40 club, Soriano is perhaps the only guy I would think of as a speed-first type of player – and that’s only because Chicago continues to bat him lead-off. I’m sure some of my perception of them has to do with the fact that I’m more familiar with their later careers where their speed had waned significantly, but the list of 40/40 hopefuls certainly seems like a list of guys whose speed will hold up throughout their entire career.
Anyway, my original intent with this article is to see who might become the next member of the 40/40 club, let’s look through everyone individually. Beltran, who’s one of my personal favorites, certainly has the ability – he’s achieved 40 homers and 40 steals in different years, and he was 2 homers shy of the mark in 2004. Some worry about a decline in ability, but for someone who will be 32 next season, I don’t think a continued decline is imminent. His solid homerun distance and proven gap power bode well for this. However, only a third of Beltran’s batted balls were flies last year, which was really low for him. If this spikes like it did in ’06 and he gets more stolen base opportunities (his stolen base success rates have been consistently good), he could have a shot at it. Since the latter scenario is far less likely to happen at this stage in his career, however, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Holliday, as I stated before, is the oddball on this list because he has typically not been considered much of a speedster. 2008 was a bit of an anomaly for him in this regard, as he shattered his career marks for stolen bases and times caught stealing (meant he had less last year). Holliday could very well continue to be a 40 homerun threat even in Oakland, but don’t expect him to get anywhere near 40 steals. Oakland is not a running team, and I wouldn’t expect a middle-of-the-order guy to change that based off one good year.
Nate McLouth’s power helped establish him as a legitimate outfield threat last year, but his speed has always been a major asset of his. I honestly don’t think he’s likely to achieve either 40 homers or 40 steals, but he’s more likely to get closest in steals. McLouth hits an unusually high amount of flyballs, so it’s not as if he’s going to get any more opportunities for homers. Unless his HR/FB rate increases dramatically, then expect mid-twenties to be his ceiling level in regard to homers.
And then there’s HanRam. Ramirez can truly do it all, and his youth likely means that he has yet to realize his fullest potential. He’s had more than fifty steals twice, but his 33 homers from last year stand as his current career high. I would not at all be surprised to see this vault over 40 next year, though. With age, he has increased his HR/FB rate and his average standard distance for homeruns, and his spray chart proves that he has strong power to straight-away center as well as opposite field. And with a flyball rate of 36.7%, he could also see a marked increase here. Clearly, Ramirez has a more than decent shot at joining the 40/40 club. The only caveat I would issue for him is that he may get less stolen base opportunities as he becomes a stronger power hitter, and his stolen base percentage is far from stellar.
I included Alex Rios because many thought his power numbers would increase after his formidable 2007 campaign and were thus disappointed with his ’08 totals. His significant drop-off in both flyball rate and HR/FB rate account for this decline, but I don’t think he gets anywhere near 40 with his best possible power year. Like McLouth, he would need an uncharacteristically large jump in HR/FB rate for this to be possible.
You’ll notice that I used Rollins’ totals from 2007 instead of 2008. I chose to do this because his ’07 numbers are more reflective of what people believe he’ll do in the future. (It should also be noted that, while I only posted one year’s worth of stats, I looked at multiple years for all players and made note of trends in stats.) Although he came close in 2007, I don’t see him even getting that close again. Again, like McLouth and Rios, he’d need a better HR/FB rate. He’s also handicapped by his meager average standard distance, which was by far the lowest of this group.
Finally, there’s Sizemore, who’s one of my brother’s favorites. Honestly, I wasn’t sold on him for quite awhile, but the more I’ve looked into his numbers, the harder it’s gotten to resist him. Last year was a career year for him in many areas, and he’s young enough where he can continue to show improvement. I like his chances of 40 steals – his success rate has increased with his stolen base totals. He’ll still need to gather another 7 homers, but I think he’ll have a shot at this, as well. While his reliance on the pull-shot troubles me, the fact that his HR/FB rate appears to be on the rise may counteract some of this.
Overall, I think it’s very likely that we’ll see at least one more addition to the 40/40 club in the near future, and I think it may even happen this year. Ramirez and Sizemore are both already pretty close, and they’re both entering their prime talent years. I also wouldn’t rule out Beltran, even at his age. After all, two of the current members – Bonds and Soriano – had their 40/40 season while they were in their 30’s. Just a little something to watch for next year, because I know how much you love historical achievements.