Modern ballclubs are built far more around power than speed, but having both in the same player is always a plus.
The Cubs have both in second baseman Javy Baez, with 24 home runs and 19 stolen bases through Sunday’s games, while the White Sox have their own dual threat in shortstop Tim Anderson, with 14 homers and 22 steals.
Both rank among the major-league leaders in power-speed number, which is designed to show a balance between homers and steals. Baez leads the National League and is fourth in MLB with a 21.2 power-speed number, while Anderson is fifth in the American League and ninth in MLB at 17.1. The leader is the Indians’ Jose Ramirez with 33 homers, 26 steals and a 29.1 power-speed number.
The calculation is (2 x HR x SB)/HR + SB, yielding a harmonic mean of homers and steals.
In Baez’s case, 2 x 24 homers x 19 steals equals 912, and dividing that by the homer-steal total of 43 yields his 21.2 power-speed. For Anderson, 2 x 14 homers x 22 steals equals 616, which, divided by his combined 36 homers and steals, puts his number at 17.1.
Power-speed is not a ranking of player value. It treats home runs and stolen bases as equal factors, even though homers are far more valuable than steals.
Instead, power-speed tells us something about how the player plays the game rather than reflects his overall value. Players with one dominant dimension do not have high power-speed numbers. We can see that with players who have one large factor and one small one. The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, with 29 homers and two steals, has a 3.7 power-speed. Lopsided in the other direction, the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, with 24 steals and three home runs, has a 5.3 power-speed.
In order to have a power-speed number above zero, a player must have at least one of each factor.
And power-speed number can never be lower than the lower factor. It rises with the addition of any home run or steal, but it rises more with additions that bring the totals closer to even.
If Baez’s next addition were a homer, bringing him to 25 and 19, his power-speed would rise from 21.2 to 22.6. But if it were a steal, to bring the totals to 24 and 20, the power-speed would show a bigger jump, to 22.9.
Baez’s season has been strong in more facets than power-speed can represent. Along with leading the NL with 86 RBI and standing sixth in home runs and fifth in steals, he’s sixth with 70 runs, seventh with a .918 OPS, fourth with 5.1 base-running runs, ninth with 138 RC+, sixth in win probability added at 2.87 and third in Fangraphs.com’s WAR at 4.1.
Anderson hasn’t had that breakthrough, and his WAR sits at 1.6 with an 89 wRC+ that is below the 100 average mark for overall offense.
But he can hit home runs and he does steal bases, so Anderson joins Baez among the power-speed higher-ups.