Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz hinted at a historic feat. The 6-foot-7 shortstop told reporters: “I’m looking for 30/30 or 40/40 this year.”
Hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases would be a significant breakout year for Cruz in his first full season. Adding 10 more to each total would make him a budding superstar.
A 30/30 season has only occurred 64 times in baseball history, 43 times in the National League. Barry Bonds is the lone Pirate ever to accomplish the home run/stolen base feat, twice in 1990 and 1992. Bonds hit 33 homers and stole 52 bags in 152 during the ‘90 campaign and 34 long balls and 39 stolen bases two years later in ‘92. He was also awarded the 1990 and 1992 NL MVP Awards.
The last Pirate to hit 30 or more home runs was Josh Bell in 2019. Bell mashed 37 long balls, including 12 in May, and made his lone All-Star appearance. It’s been exactly 50 years since a Bucco totaled 40 home runs. The great Willie Stargell led the league with 44 homers in 1973, also registering a league-high 119 runs batted in.
Starling Marte stole 33 bases in 2018 as the last Pirate to steal over 30. Ke’Bryan Hayes recorded 20 steals in 2022 to lead the team.
Cruz totaled 17 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 87 games last season during his age-23 season, producing a 2.3 WAR. The lefty batter tied his Minor League high of 17 homers from 2021 and also stole a career-best 19 bags that year.
ONEIL CRUZ HIT THIS BALL INTO THE ALLEGHENY pic.twitter.com/W4og6C92Rj— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 7, 2022
Also, the base size has officially increased from 15 square inches to 18 this season in an attempt to improve player safety. The increase could potentially provide an easier path for base stealers.
There is no questioning the talent possessed by Cruz and a 30/30 season may not be out of reach. He was on pace to hit over 30 in 162 games but will need to increase his running game to reach the feat. Cruz is already a uniquely talented player. A 40/40 year would be out of this world, while a 30/30 campaign would be the MLB world on notice and signal a solid season of Pirates baseball.