Julio Rodríguez Joins What Could Become a Bumper Crop of 30-30 Players

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In the moment, the home run was huge. With the Mariners trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Angels on Monday night, needing a win to stay half a game ahead of the Rangers in the race for the third AL Wild Card spot, Julio Rodríguez chased a low sinker from José Marte and swatted it over the center field wall into the No Fly Zone, the personal cheering section of T-Mobile Park where the J-Rod Squad sits. The 402-foot blast was Rodríguez’s 30th of the year, meaning that it not only tied the game, it made the 22-year-old center fielder the third-youngest player to join the 30-homer, 30-steal club.

Counting to the point where the players joined the club by reaching the second milestone, only Mike Trout (21 years, 54 days in 2012) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (21 years, 248 days in 2019) reached 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in the same season at a younger age. Alex Rodriguez, like Julio Rodríguez, reached the mark in his age-22 season — and is the only other Mariner to accomplish the feat, but he was 23 years and three days old when he notched his 30th steal in 1998.

The bummer of it all was that the Angels scored three runs in the top of the 11th, and the Mariners went down in order in the bottom of the frame, losing 8-5 and dropping half a game below the Rangers, with the Blue Jays (whom the Rangers beat on Monday) just another half a game ahead. Understandably, that left Rodríguez in a less-than-celebratory mood. Via the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish, he said, “You know me, you know what I’m about whenever I step on field… It’s tough to talk about the good things you are doing, when us collectively, we’re not doing good. It is always about winning first for me. That’s why we’re here. As cool as it sounds, the 30-30 club, what I’m about is winning.”

The good news is that Tuesday night’s wins by the Mariners and Rangers left Seattle and Toronto both 80-65, tied for the third AL Wild Card spot, half a game below the 80-64 Rangers. The Astros (82-65) are only one game ahead of the Rangers and 1.5 ahead of the Mariners in a wild three-team race for the West. As for Rodríguez, he became the 44th player to reach 30-30, matching his jersey number (“That’s a really cool stat,” he noted). The feat has been accomplished a total of 67 times, and that number could be growing. In fact, this year there’s a chance we may get a record number of 30-30 members.

Rodríguez is the second player to reach 30-30 this season, after Acuña, who hit his 30th homer on August 31 to go with what was then 61 steals (he added his 62nd later in that game). That was already an unprecedented combination, and with six homers and three steals since, he’s up to 36 of the former and 65 of the latter, with sights set on the first 40-70 season in major league history. Meanwhile, four other players currently have at least 25 homers and 25 steals, giving them reasonable shots of reaching 30 in both categories, and two others have an outside chance of crashing the party as well.

To give us an idea of what their chances are, I not only included each player’s rest-of-season ZiPS projection, I asked Dan Szymborski to supply ZiPS odds on them reaching 30 in each category and completing the combo. I also asked him to provide odds for Acuña reaching 40 homers and 70 steals:

Possible 30-Homer, 30-Steal Seasons in 2023
Player Team HR SB RoS HR RoS SB Proj HR Proj SB Odds HR Odds SB Odds Combo
Ronald Acuña Jr. ATL 36 65 4 5 40 70 72%* 57%* 39%*
Julio Rodríguez SEA 30 36 3 3 33 39 100% 100% 100%
Bobby Witt Jr. KCR 28 42 3 3 31 45 73% 100% 73%
Kyle Tucker HOU 26 28 3 3 29 31 37% 70% 26%
Trea Turner PHI 26 27 3 3 29 30 18% 52% 9%
Francisco Lindor NYM 26 26 3 2 29 28 35% 15% 5%
Fernando Tatis Jr. SDP 24 25 3 2 27 27 23% 13% 3%
Corbin Carroll ARI 24 47 2 3 26 50 2% 100% 2%
Rest-of-season (RoS) projections and odds of reaching plateaus based upon ZiPS forecasts. * = odds of reaching 40 homers and 70 stolen bases.

Two points are worth bearing in mind. First, these odds do not account for human nature in the form of the possibility that a player nearing the stolen base milestone might start trying to steal more frequently, an action that’s much more within his control than, say, a sudden desire to hit more homers (which usually doesn’t end well). Second, each player’s home run and stolen base odds aren’t entirely independent, because when a player homers, he’s deprived of a chance to reach base and steal — though that’s a tradeoff most players (and their teams) would make.

With that out of the way, a few points about each of the prospective 30-30 members.

  • Witt has already banked one of the two milestones, and is the only hopeful whose rest-of-season projection pushes him over the line; the rest need to do better than their median projections — which is generally what good and great players do. If not for Acuña, Witt’s stolen base total would be the highest for any 30-homer player since Mike Trout swiped 49 bags in 2012.
  • Tucker, who has hit exactly 30 homers in each of the past two seasons, has his work cut out to make it a threepeat in that category, but on the other hand, he’s already set a new career high in steals and has been successful at an 84.9% clip this year, which is great (but not the best here).
  • Turner had 12 homers through his first 120 games with the Phillies but has been on a rampage lately, hitting 14 in his past 21 and batting .400/.439/.933 (257 wRC+) in that span. Thanks to his homer and steal against the Braves on Tuesday night, his odds of reaching 30-30 more than tripled from the day before, from 2.9% to 9.3%. He has a reasonable shot of completing what he fell short of doing in 2021, when he hit 28 homers and stole 32 bases. Just as notable as his hot streak is the fact that he not only has an even better stolen base success rate than Tucker or Lindor, he has yet to be caught stealing this season — something I had not realized until writing this and then checking to confirm that yes, Michael Baumann covered that ground on Tuesday. Nobody in the post-1960 expansion era has been perfect while stealing more than 23 bases; Chase Utley went 23-for-23 in 2009, a cornerstone season in his upcoming Hall of Fame case.
  • Lindor has set a new carer high in steals as well. In fact, his total is as many as he had in 2021 and ’22 combined, which explains why his odds to reach 30 in that category are so low; ZiPS doesn’t think he can sustain this clip. His 92.9% success rate (26-for-28) suggests otherwise, so I’d consider that 5% chance of reaching the club to be a significant underestimate.
  • After homering on Tuesday night against the Dodgers, Tatis needs six more, and his track record suggests he can produce a flurry of them. That leaves him with a fighting chance of joining the club in what has otherwise been something of a disappointing season after missing all of last year due to injuries and a PED suspension.
  • Carroll is the other hopeful besides Witt who’s already reached one of the milestones, and he too has an elite stolen base success rate (90.4%). However, he’s hit just six homers since his early July right shoulder issues, including only two in August and one in September, so it seems unlikely he will suddenly rediscover his power and regain lost ground.

As for Rodríguez, his membership in the club is just one facet of an incredible second half (.353/.398/.656, 189 wRC+) that has made up for a tepid first half (.249/.306/.411, 100 wRC+). The surge has pushed him to 6.0 WAR, 0.6 ahead of his Rookie of the Year campaign and second among AL position players behind only Shohei Ohtani. If not for the two-way wonder, he’d be battling the red-hot Corey Seager for MVP votes. And of course, the fact that he’s doing this as the Mariners are battling for a playoff spot is all the more impressive.

Speaking of MVP votes, Acuña’s milestone combo may help him stave off a late charge from Mookie Betts, who has taken over the major league WAR lead (8.0 to 7.1 for Acuña) and the NL wRC+ lead (173 to 168). Already he’s just the third player to steal at least 50 bases while hitting at least 30 homers, after Eric Davis (37 homers, 50 steals in 1987) and Barry Bonds (33 homers and 52 steals in 1990), as well as one of 14 players to reach 30-30 multiple times. Bonds shares the record with father Bobby Bonds at five times apiece. Regardless of how many more bases he steals, if Acuña does reach 40 homers, he’ll become just the fifth member of the 40-40 club, after Jose Canseco (1988), the younger Bonds (1996), A-Rod (1998), and Alfonso Soriano (2006)

Back to the aspiring 30-30 members, the most likely outcome is that one or two of these players reach the dual milestones. If two do so, that would tie the single season record, which has been reached three times, but just once in this millennium:

Seasons with 4 30-Homer, 30-Steal Players
Season Player Team HR SB
1987 Eric Davis CIN 37 50
1987 Darryl Strawberry NYM 39 36
1987 Howard Johnson NYM 36 32
1987 Joe Carter CLE 32 31
1997 Raul Mondesi LAD 30 32
1997 Jeff Bagwell HOU 43 31
1997 Larry Walker COL 49 33
1997 Barry Bonds SFG 40 37
2011 Matt Kemp LAD 39 40
2011 Ryan Braun MIL 33 33
2011 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 32 39
2011 Ian Kinsler TEX 32 30
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

What’s driving this year’s potential bumper crop is the return of the stolen base thanks to the new rules — namely the pitch clock, the limit on pickoff throws, and the slightly larger bases — at a time when home run rates are near their all-time high. Stolen base attempts per game are up 32% over last year, from 0.68 per game to 0.9 (note that all of these rates are expressed as per team per game). We haven’t seen players run this often since 2011, when they attempted 0.93 steals per game, and only one other time in this millennium have they been above 0.9 (2001, also 0.93), where they were above 1.0 annually from 1975–97. With stolen base success rates at an all-time high of 80.1%, successful steals per game are up 40% over last year, from 0.51 per game to 0.72, the highest rate since 1997 (0.73).

Meanwhile, the rate of 1.22 homers per game is the fifth-highest ever, having risen from 1.16 since I checked in at the All-Star break, but still well off the record of 1.39 home run per game set in 2019. Thus the rate of home runs plus steals per game is the highest ever, with the weird home run spike of 1987 driving the next-highest rate:

While Rodríguez could get to 40 steals, the heavy lifting of reaching major milestones in those categories is done for now. Still, I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us this season.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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5 months ago

I’m glad to see more athleticism even at the expense of skills like plate discipline and the ability to pull fly balls

5 months ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

I still hope Julio works on that BB%!