Could Ben Zobrist Join the 30/30 Club in 2009?

I'm going to the Ben Zobrist well once again. Zobrist has been called many different things this season. As he approaches 200 plate appearances in 2009, I wondered if he might be adding another name to that list; member of the 30 home run, 30 steals club. Once upon a time, I thought B.J. Upton would be the first Rays player to enter the 30/30 club. Never would I or anybody else project that Zobrist would actually have a legit shot at membership to one of the more heralded fraternities in baseball.

In the history of the major leagues there have been 52 instances of a 30/30 season. However, only 32 men make up those seasons. In recent years, the 30/30 season has become a bit more frequent and we have had a 30/30 season each of the past 13 seasons including 16 occurrences this decade. With Benzo about to pass the 200 PA threshold, I decided to see where he stands up to the five most recent 30/30 seasons. Here are Ben's numbers to date:

Player

Year

PA

HR

SB

CS

B. Zobrist

2009

198

13

8

2

Now here are the numbers for the last five 30/30 players as close as 198 PAs as I could get it:

Player

Year

PA

HR

SB

CS

G.Sizemore

2008

196

7

9

2

H.Ramirez

2008

195

9

13

4

B. Phillips

2007

198

8

8

3

J. Rollins

2007

199

9

9

1

D. Wright

2007

197

8

9

0

Zobrist has four more home runs than anybody else on the list, and is tied or within one steal of everyone else except Jimmy Rollins, who registered 41 steals in 2007. Late inning lighting is good, but not 40 steals good. Home runs do not seem to an issue for this current version of  Ben Zobrist. He is on place for 35 bombs and shows no signs of slowing down. The problem for Zobrist will be steals and getting enough playing time.

As of today, Zobrist is on pace for 535 plate appearances. Now that number is skewed because he didn't start the season as an everyday player, and he figures to see most of the time at second base for the rest of the season. As he continues to get more and more PAs the projected number will rise. Nonetheless, for now this is what we have. If you look at the list above no player had fewer than 693 PAs at the end of their 30/30 year.

Player

Year

PA

HR

SB

CS

G.Sizemore

2008

745

33

38

5

H.Ramirez

2008

693

33

35

12

B.Phillips

2007

702

30

32

8

J. Rollins

2007

778

30

41

6

D. Wright

2007

711

30

34

5

The Rays have 97 games remaining. If Zobrist played each game and received four plate appearances that would give him an additional 388 PAs. This would give Zobrist 586 PAs on the season, well short of 693. We must also factor in Willy Aybar, who will take some of those at-bats away from him.

If Ben continues to steal bases at an 80% success rate, he would need to have 38 attempts to get steal #30. Getting on base has not been a problem for Zobrist this season. He has a .424 OBP and is walking (33 BB) nearly as much as he is striking out (35 K). The problem is he is currently on pace for 22 steals in 27 attempts. Obviously not only is that 11 fewer attempts than needed, but eight steals shy of the 30 mark.

Given the data in front of me, even though through 200 plate appearances Zobrist is on pace for a 30/30 season, it seems as if he will come just short of enough playing time to reach the milestone. Just the fact that it is June 15 and we are talking about Benjamin T. Zobrist as a possible 30/30 player is an accomplishment in itself. Though he still has an outside chance at 30/30, he will certainly make a serious run at becoming just the second Rays player to post a 20/20 season (B.J. Upton 2007), and will be in a race with Evan Longoria to become the fifth player to post a 30 home run season in a Rays uniform (Fred Mcgriff, Jose Canseco, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Pena).

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