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Are power & speed players back in MLB?

Tommy Pham joined 20/20 club on Thursday

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham had himself quite a game on Thursday afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds. He walked, then stole second and third base in the third inning, then hit a two-run home run in the fifth.

That gave Pham 21 stolen bases and 20 home runs on the season, the first Cardinals player with 20 homers and 20 steals in a season since Reggie Sanders in 2004.

Pham is the fifth player in 2017 to reach the 20/20 club, joining Jose Altuve, Elvis Andrus, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout (in just 98 games, LOL).

There were nine such players in 2016, and we could reach that number or something close to it this year, too. Wil Myers, Keon Broxton and Brett Gardner are all just one stolen base away. Whit Merrifield is three home runs away. Paul Goldschmidt is three steals shy. Andrew Benintendi needs two steals and a home run. Chris Taylor needs four steals and a homer.

20 HR/20 SB players by decade

Decade Players/year
Decade Players/year
2010s 7.6
2000s 9.7
1990s 9.9
1980s 5.9
1970s 4.7
1960s 2.3
1950s 1.1
Source: Baseball-Reference

That would be a nice return to the power and speed players of yesteryear, especially after just four players reached 20/20 status in 2015 and five players in 2014. So far in the 2010s, an average of 7.6 players per year have hit 20 homers and stolen 20 bases in the same season.

The heyday for the 20/20 club was the previous two decades, with 99 players reaching the milestone in the 1990s and 97 in the 2000s, the culmination of a steady rise in power/speed players since the 1950s, the decade when the stolen base went the way of the dodo bird.

During the 1950s, 10 of the 20 league leaders had fewer than 30 steals. In the 58 years since, the league leader in steals has been below 40 steals just four times, and one of those was in a strike-shortened season when Craig Biggio led the National League with 39 stolen bases.

Only 11 times from 1950-59 did someone reach the 20/20 club, and five of those seasons were by the great Willie Mays.

Maybe this is just the 1980s kid in me who was mesmerized by the back of the baseball cards of Eric Davis (seven-time 20/20 member), Darryl Strawberry (five times), Kirk Gibson (five), Howard Johnson (five) and their ilk, but I’m all for a return of the power/speed combo players.

After all, hindsight is 20/20.