Tuesday, August 15, 2006

King Reyes

Jose Reyes: magnificent once again.

When Chipper Jones hits three dingers in a game, as he did on Monday, you're impressed but not shocked. When Jose Reyes does it, as he did tonight, you wonder whether the 23-year-old is starting to show the power potential the scouts talked about when he broke into the league.

Tonight's performance puts Reyes on pace for 20 homeruns on the year, along with a projected 70 steals. If it happens, it will be an achievement with few peers in the modern era, especially for a player this young.

Baseball’s records for steals in a single-season steals are dominated by the deadball era. Of the 100 best seasons in history, which comprise those players who stole 74 or more bases in a season, only 34 are in the modern era, and none occurred from 1916 to 1961. By contrast, 19 of the best single seasons in history happened in 1887 alone.

Those 34 modern-era seasons came from just 15 players, and we all know who ranks first. Rickey Henderson has seven seasons in the all-time top-100. Vince Coleman had five.

But very few of the steal leaders delivered power. Henderson is the exception: he had four seasons with 20+ HR and 50+ steals, his best being a 28-87 performance in 1986 when he was 27. Eric Davis exceeded the 20-20 mark six times, with peaks of 27-80 and 37-50 in the back-to-back ’86-’87 seasons for Cincinnati (aged 23-24). Lou Brock broke 20 HR once, combining it with 52 steals in 1967 (he was 28); not shabby at all, but his two peak steal seasons came with just 15 and 3 homeruns.

By contrast, Vince Coleman was all legs: his ‘career year’ totalled a mighty six homeruns – most years he hit just two or three, and in 600 at bats in 1986 nothing left the yard (career SLG: .345). His power performance is typical of his breed. Most of the elite basestealers, ancient or modern, simply didn't hit homeruns, including Maury Wils, Omar Moreno, Willie Wilson, Ron LeFlore, Brian Hunter and Rudy Law.

Others managed years where power joined speed outside of their peak-steal seasons, like Davey Lopes (his best was 28-44), Ron LeFlore (16-39) and Tim Raines (18-50). Fellow Expo Marquis Grissom had five seasons of 20+ HR, but mostly late in his career for other teams, long past the early ’90s days when he’d steal 70 in a season.

If Jose Reyes can make it to 74 steals and 20 homeruns, and it’s now clear those numbers are within his reach, he would join Henderson and Davis as the only players to break the 20-homerun barrier while delivering a top-100 all-time performance on the basepaths. And he would be the youngest ever to do so.

Powerless: modern-era steals leaders and their homerun production
Year Player HR SB
1986 Rickey Henderson 28 87
1986 Eric Davis 27 80
1985 Rickey Henderson 24 80
1988 Rickey Henderson 17 93
1966 Lou Brock 15 74
1996 Kenny Lofton 14 75
1992 Marquis Grissom 14 78
1989 Rickey Henderson 12 77
1983 Tim Raines 11 90
1982 Rickey Henderson 10 130
1983 Rickey Henderson 9 108
1980 Rickey Henderson 9 100
1979 Ron LeFlore 9 78
1975 Davey Lopes 8 77
1979 Omar Moreno 8 77
1984 Tim Raines 8 75
1991 Marquis Grissom 6 76
1962 Maury Wills 6 104
1990 Vince Coleman 6 77
1979 Willie Wilson 6 83
1997 Brian Hunter 4 74
1980 Ron LeFlore 4 97
1982 Tim Raines 4 78
1980 Dave Collins 3 79
1974 Lou Brock 3 118
1983 Rudy Law 3 77
1987 Vince Coleman 3 109
1988 Vince Coleman 3 81
1980 Willie Wilson 3 79
1976 Billy North 2 75
1980 Omar Moreno 2 96
1985 Vince Coleman 1 110
1965 Maury Wills 0 94
1986 Vince Coleman 0 107


At 1:36 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Very few of the steal leaders delivered power.

True, but there are lots of players who do both, without leading in the steals category. Bobby and Barry Bonds come to mind, as do Canseco and Strawberry.

I am glad to see you mentioned Davis. I worshipped him as a youngster, and have always felt that he was an underappreciated player. His 1987 season was particularly impressive. You'll like this one, Avi. Of the 56 stolen base attempts he made, he only got caught 6 times. That is a 89% success rate, and well over the 75% threshold that makes stealing a base worthwhile.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Agreed. I deleted a paragraph in my draft that talked about Bonds I and II because I wanted to write a baseball post that didn't mention Barry. (There's a first time for everything.)

There's also a big difference between a season of 40 or 50 steals and one that is on the all-time leaders list. We know that steal-leaders are all stride and no stick, but pulling the numbers together showed just how empty their bats are.

There's another way I could've put it: Reyes can become only the third player to join the 20-70 club.


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