StaTuesday: Brewers’ Christian Yelich about to join the rare 40-20 club

In case you haven’t noticed, Christian Yelich isn’t exactly slowing down.

The Milwaukee Brewers slugger and reigning MVP (and possibly future MVP) is batting .359 in 22 games since the All-Star break, with eight home runs and four stolen bases.

Yelich has three homers in the past two games, upping his career-high total to 39, which also happens to lead the major leagues.

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The four steals also pushed Yelich to a new career high in that department, with 23.

With his next home run, Yelich will become just the seventh Brewers player to reach 40 in a season, joining Ryan Braun, Chris Carter, Prince Fielder (twice), Ben Oglivie, Richie Sexson (twice) and Gorman Thomas.

He’ll also join a rather exclusive group: The 40-20 club.

In major-league history, only 18 players (for a total of 29 times) have had 40+ homers and 20+ steals in a season. Yelich will become the second Brewers player – and third Milwaukee one – to do it. Ryan Braun was the last 40-20 player, in 2012. Hank Aaron, playing for the Milwaukee Braves, was the second to accomplish the feat in 1963 (Aaron did it again in Atlanta in 1966). Willie Mays was the founder of the 40-20 club in 1955.

In 1988, Jose Canseco, who had stolen 15 bases in each of his first two full seasons, proclaimed he’d become the first 40-40 player and then proceeded to do so, tallying 42 homers and 40 steals. He was just the fourth player to even reach 40-20.

Of the 29 occurrences, 14 happened between 1996-99 (make your own judgments why). This century there have been just six 40-20 players, with Alex Rodriguez doing it twice (he did it four times overall in his career).

The oddest member of the 40-20 club, by the way, has to be Mark Reynolds, who played for the Brewers in 2014. Reynolds hit a career-high 44 homers in 2009 with Arizona and also stole 24 bases. He had swiped 11 bags the previous year … and then had just 29 steals combined over his next 10 seasons (including thus far in 2019).

But back to Yelich.

Of the 29 times a player reached 40-20, just 11 had 30+ steals (including Braun). Yelich needs just seven more thefts to join that even more exclusive club.

And if Yelich can hit 11 more home runs, which is definitely within reach – he averages one every 2.7 games and the Brewers have 48 games remaining (to save you the math that’d be almost 18 homers if he keeps his current pace) – he’d be only the five player to have 50+ homers and 20+ steals. In that small group, the most stolen bases in a season is 24, so Yelich likely would be on the top of the list.

Here’s the complete list of 40-20 players. Be prepared to add Yelich.

Willie Mays Giants 1955 51 24
Hank Aaron Braves 1963 44 31
Hank Aaron Braves 1966 44 21
Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox 1970 40 23
Jose Canseco A’s 1988 42 40
Ryne Sandberg Cubs 1990 40 25
Jose Canseco A’s 1991 44 26
Barry Bonds Giants 1993 46 29
Brady Anderson Orioles 1996 50 21
Ellis Burks Rockies 1996 40 32
Barry Bonds Giants 1996 42 40
Jeff Bagwell Astros 1997 49 33
Larry Walker Rockies 1997 49 33
Barry Bonds Giants 1997 40 37
Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners 1998 56 20
Jose Canseco Blue Jays 1998 46 29
Alex Rodriguez Mariners 1998 42 46
Shawn Green Blue Jays 1999 42 20
Alex Rodriguez Mariners 1999 42 21
Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners 1999 48 24
Chipper Jones Braves 1999 45 25
Jeff Bagwell Astros 1999 42 30
Shawn Green Dodgers 1999 45 25
Alex Rodriguez Yankees 2005 48 21
Alfonso Soriano Nationals 2006 46 41
Alex Rodriguez Yankees 2007 54 24
Mark Reynolds Diamondbacks 2009 44 24
Curtis Granderson Yankees 2011 41 25
Ryan Braun Brewers 2012 41 30

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns