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