[The United Cardinal Bloggers have begun their offseason roundtable discussion in which member bloggers take turns posing a question each day to the others. Today’s question comes from Tom Knuppel of Cardinals GM.]
Which player, not named Oscar Taveras that is on the current roster of the Cardinals from top-to-bottom (all the way through the minor leagues), will be the next Cardinal to hit 30 home runs in the major leagues in one season for the Cardinals (and who has never done it before)?
Which player, not named Oscar Taveras that is on the current roster of the Cardinals from top-to-bottom (all the way through the minor leagues), will be the next Cardinal to steal 25 bases in one season in a Cardinals uniform (and who has never done it before)?
This is a fun pair of questions, and they point out the reality that the 30 home-run mark is “easier” to achieve these days, while the 25 stolen-base mark is more difficult (from 1980-1995, MLB had 204 players hit 30 home runs and 511 steal 25 bases; from 1996-2012, those numbers were 549 and 437, respectively). We’re old enough to remember those halcyon days when the 30-30 club was as cool as titanium energy necklaces. To show you how much the leagues have recently eschewed speed for power, let’s look at the 30-home run club members and 30 stolen-base club members by year since 1980:
The inflection point seems to have been around 1993-1995, when the majors featured 53 30-HR guys and 52 30-SB guys. Since then, big stolen-base seasons have remained relatively constant, while big-slugging seasons have proliferated.
Anyway, back to Tom’s questions. Allen Craig seems like the best option for 30 home runs. Bill James projects him to hit 27 next year, but that’s based on 139 games. All he needs is a full season.
In addition to core requirements of speed and on-base skill, stolen bases are a function of opportunity in the form of playing time and lineup spot (and of couse, a willing manager, which the Cardinals have!). Jon Jay has the advantage in both of those areas, in addition to speed (team-leading 4.1 Baserunning rating) and making base (.373 OBP in 2012). Minor-league insurance second baseman Eugenio Velez has the capacity (led the Redbirds with 37 SBs in 2012), as does Adron Chambers, but neither figures to get the opportunity to steal many bases at the major-league level, at least not with the Cardinals, where they are blocked by Descalso-Wong and Holliday-Jay-Beltran-Carpenter-Taveras.
Then again, though Jay may be the likeliest, that’s not to say that it’ll happen anytime soon. After all, recent history suggests that the stolen base — Mike Matheny’s pre-season intimations notwithstanding — is falling out of favor, even within the Cardinal organization. The team hasn’t had a 25-stolen-base guy since 2004, when Tony Womack did it. Gone are the days when the team featured five — five! — speedsters (1985: Vince Coleman, Tom Herr, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, Andy Van Slyke):