Thunder and Lightning: Players With Power and Speed

This article was written by Michael Sciarretta

This article was published in the 1983 Baseball Research Journal


Power-Plus and Thunder and Lightning are just two of the names given to a select group of players who are capable of generating offense via the home run or the stolen base. A great emphasis has been placed on this dual prowess in recent years. For a single season there is the 30 home run and 30 stolen base club, and for career accomplishments there is the 200 home run and 200 stolen base club. Dale Murphy joined the season club this year and Don Baylor the career group in 1982.

Avid baseball fans now have at their disposal a new way of measuring a player’s combination of power and speed with the  Power/Speed Number or PSN. Bill James, in his 1983 Baseball Abstract, developed the PSN by using the following formula:

2(HR x SB)
HR+ SB

To demonstrate this formula, you will find that Dale Murphy, who had 36 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 1983, comes up with a Power/Speed Number of 32.7. This is good, but doesn’t rank quite near the top for a season’s effort. By this formula, it doesn’t mean that both totals – home runs and stolen bases – have to be equally high. In 1973 for example, Joe Morgan of the Reds had 26 homers and 67 stolen bases for a PSN of 37.5. Willie Mays in 1955 had 51 four-baggers and 24 thefts for a PSN of 32.6. Here are the season leaders (dominated by Bobby Bonds) who had PSNs of more than 30.

 

 

Year

HR

SB

PSN

Bobby Bonds

1973

39

43

40.9

Bobby Bonds

1977

37

41

38.9

Ken Williams

1922

39

37

38.0

Willie Mays

1956

36

40

37.9

Joe Morgan

1973

26

67

37.5

Bobby Bonds

1969

32

45

37.4

Joe Morgan

1974

27

60

37.2

Willie Mays

1957

35

38

36.4

Henry Aaron

1963

44

31

36.4

Bobby Bonds

1978

31

43

36.0

Cesar Cedeno

1974

26

57

35.7

Cesar Cedeno

1973

25

56

34.6

Tommy Harper

1970

31

38

34.1

Bobby Bonds

1970

26

48

33.7

Mike Schmidt

1975

38

29

32.9

Dale Murphy

1983

36

30

32.7

Bobby Bonds

1972

26

44

32.7

Willie Mays

1955

51

24

32.6

Joe Morgan

1974

22

58

31.9

Cesar Cedeno

1972

22

55

31.4

Bobby Bonds

1975

32

30

31.0

 

On a career level, Joe Morgan in 1983 ran his total home runs to 262 and thefts to 681. This gives him a career PSN of 378.4 and moves him past Henry Aaron (755-244 for 358.9) into third place behind the leader Willie Mays (660-338 for 447.1) and Bobby Bonds (332-461 for 386.0).

Murphy’s balanced season totals of 36 homers and 30 steals raise the question about the most unbalanced totals. In the Lightning Only category, Alan Wiggins moved near the top in 1983 with no four-baggers and 66 thefts. Only Maury Wills with 0 home runs and 94 steals in 1965 demonstrated a greater imbalance. In the Thunder Only department, Roger Mans did the ultimate in 1961 when he hit 61 roundtrippers and didn’t steal a base. The season leaders in the two categories follow:

 

Lightning

Year

HR

SB

       

Maury Wills

1965

0

94

Alan Wiggins

1983

0

66

Eddie Collins

1912

0

63

Rodney Scott

1980

0

63

Miguel Dilone

1980

0

61

Frank Taveras

1976

0

58

Ozzie Smith

1980

0

57

Eddie Collins

1917

0

53

Donie Bush

1909

0

53

Maury Wills

1968

0

52

       

Thunder

     
       

Roger Mans

1961

61

0

Ted Kluszewski

1954

49

0

Harmon Killebrew

1964

49

0

Willie Stargell

1971

48

0

Harmon Killebrew

1963

45

0

Willie McCovey

1969

45

0

Frank Howard

1968

44

0

Willie Stargell

1973

44

0

Dick Stuart

1963

42

0

Rocky Colavito

1958

41

0

Harmon Killebrew

1970

41

0

On a career basis, using players with at least 200 home runs or stolen bases, Frank Taveras is the Lightning Only leader with two four-baggers and 300 steals. The Thunder Only is generated primarily by Dr. Strangeglove, Dick Stuart, who hit 228 homers and stole two bases.

It is always good to conclude on a balanced note. The final grouping in this brief analysis is the Double Negative category (some might call it dishonorable mention). These are players who had a season of play (more than 420 at bats) without hitting a home run or stealing a base.

 

 

Year

HR

SB

AB

         

Dick Groat

1956

0

0

520

Lee Tannehill

1911

0

0

516

Emil Verban

1944

0

0

498

Hal Lanier

1969

0

0

495

Tommy Thevenow

1934

0

0

446

Nellie Fox

1963

0

0

442

Dave Chalk

1976

0

0

438

Len Schulte

1945

0

0

430

Woody Woodward

1967

0

0

429

Harold Lee

1935

0

0

422

Hal Lanier extended this seasonal nothingness into a ten-year career which included eight home runs and 11 stolen bases in 3,703 at bats. In a longer career, Dick Groat was 39 and 14 in 7,484 at bats.

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