It’s no secret that offense has been in decline across the board in major league baseball in recent years. It seems like only, uh, 17 years ago that the race was on to see who could break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Last season, only Nelson Cruz reached the 40 HR mark and just ten other players managed to knock 30 out of the park. Remember Vince Coleman’s string of three consecutive 100+ steal seasons from ’85-’87? No? Too young, eh? If you’re familiar with the video game R.B.I. Baseball for the original 8-bit Nintendo, he’s the guy who’s able to steal bases at will. It was basically the same deal in real life. Pretty darn impressive feat, especially when you consider the fact that only four players reached the 40 SB mark last year.
But just how much has the offensive landscape changed though? It probably wouldn’t be very useful to compare recent league-wide production to that of the PED era. Kind of like comparing apples and oranges, or maybe organic apples to genetically-engineered ones. Instead, let’s take a look at some MLB stats from the past three seasons to see if this decline is just a myth or if it’s a reality:
Can we lower the pitcher’s mound already, or at least move it back a couple of feet? How about authorizing the usage of aluminum bats? As you can see, power and run production in general has declined across the board in each of the last two seasons. Stolen bases is the only category that rose slightly from ’13 to ’14 after declining drastically from the previous season. What does all of this mean?
It means that it’s time for this week’s exercise, guys and four girl readers. Since offensive production is down across the board, I thought that it might be useful to identify the players who have been across the board contributors, specifically in the power and speed categories (aka home runs and stolen bases). On to this week’s search criteria:
2013-14 MLB seasons
Hit at least 20 home runs
Steal at least 20 bases
Really taking this whole K.I.S.S. approach to another level, aren’t I? The idea behind this is to determine which players averaged double digit HRs and SBs per season over the last two. The requirements might look laughably simplistic, but it might surprise you to learn that only 36 players met the criteria. I’ve split the results up into two separate tables featuring 18 players in each one. Table #1 contains the qualifiers who averaged at least 15 HRs per season (or at least 30 total), and can be seen here:
|Shin-Soo Choo||– – –||1241||34||165||94||23||13.70%||21.30%||0.64||0.157||0.266|
|Ian Kinsler||– – –||1340||30||185||164||30||6.00%||10.30%||0.58||0.141||0.276|
A few thoughts and observations concerning these results:
• Trout, Gomez, McCutchen, and Desmond are the only players who have averaged 20/20 or better over the last two seasons. You’ll have to pay top dollar for them on draft day, but they’ve proven themselves to be extremely valuable fantasy options. None of these players has turned 30 years old yet either.
• Speaking of young players, only Trout and Puig are in the 25 and under club among these qualifiers. The best may be yet to come for these young studs.
• Can Todd Frazier continue to steal 10+ bags or was last season a fluke? Either way, his power looks to be legitimate.
• Shin-Soo Choo is one of my favorite rebound candidates this season. The perennial 20/20 threat might be more of a 15/15 player these days and still struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. He still gets on base at a solid clip though, contributes at least a little bit in each category, and can be had with a mid-round pick in many formats this season.
• CarGo (the Colorado version) and Hanley are the risk/reward options here. Fantastic production when healthy, but will they be able to avoid missing a significant portion of the season due to injury?
Here’s table #2 which features the qualifiers who averaged 10-14.5 HRs (20-29 total) over the 2013-14 seasons:
|Jacoby Ellsbury||– – –||1271||25||163||123||91||7.60%||14.60%||0.52||0.138||0.285|
|Drew Stubbs||– – –||905||25||126||88||37||8.20%||30.60%||0.27||0.159||0.259|
|Alejandro De Aza||– – –||1203||25||140||103||37||7.40%||22.10%||0.33||0.138||0.258|
|Alex Rios||– – –||1183||22||137||135||59||5.40%||17.00%||0.32||0.138||0.279|
|Dexter Fowler||– – –||997||20||132||77||30||13.10%||21.40%||0.62||0.133||0.27|
• Rollins, Murphy, Zobrist, Ramirez, and Kendrick seem to fall into the boring, aging middle infield tier for many fantasy players. While the aging part might be correct, these players have consistently produced solid numbers across the board from positions of scarcity. With the possible exception of Ramirez, none of them should require the use of a premium pick on draft day.
• Charlie Blackmon and Jason Heyward are two of the most polarizing players in fantasyland. Heyward has been frustrating to own at times due to his inconsistency, but he’s still just 25 years old, possesses a nice combo of power and speed, and fantastic plate discipline to boot. Was Blackmon just a one-year wonder? I don’t have that answer, but last year was pretty special. He was just 1 HR and 2 SBs shy of a 20/30 season, and plays half of his games in the most hitter-friendly environment in baseball.
• Desmond Jennings and Dexter Fowler are penciled in as the opening day leadoff hitters for their respective clubs. Both offer good speed and a little bit of pop. They’re currently available in the late rounds in most mixed league formats and have even gone undrafted in some leagues. You could do worse for a #5 OF or a bench bat.