The history of the 40/40 season: Is Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. next?

A couple of months ago, Brett Silas previewed potential 30/30 players on the Atlanta Braves roster. Ronald Acuña Jr. sat at the top of that list. The Braves play their 50th game of the season on Thursday night against their division rival Philadelphia Phillies, and Acuña is sitting at 11 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He is on pace to clear 40 stolen bases easily, but his home run pace is just a tad behind what he needs it to be to hit 40. As Silas noted, his last full healthy season was 2019, where he was just three swiped bags shy of joining the exclusive club. Acuña is also the NL MVP favorite right now, batting .330 with a .995 OPS and 167 OPS+.

As noted, the 40/40 club is an exclusive place to be in the history of Major League Baseball. Only four players have ever accomplished this feat, none of which are currently in the Hall of Fame (a questionable and debatable topic thats an argument in its own right). There are dozens of players that have accomplished the 30/30 club, and have flirted with a 40/40 season, but what’s even more difficult is to keep up that production over multiple seasons.

The first being Jose Canseco for the Oakland A’s in 1988. Canseco hit 42 home runs and swiped 40 bases on his way to the 1988 MVP award. Canseco never stole more than 29 bases in a season after that, and eclipsed 40 home runs just two more times in his career.

Eight years later, Barry Bonds would join Canseco when he also hit 42 home runs and swiped 40 bases in 1996, Bonds finished fifth in MVP voting that year. Early in his career, Bonds was quite the base stealer, stealing at least 29 bases in 10 of his first 11 seasons. Bonds has been a 30/30 member five times in his career, and he has stolen 40 bases three times, but only once did his homers and bags line up. He almost repeated his 40/40 year again in 1997, coming up three stolen bases shy while hitting 40 homers. After 1998, Bonds stolen bases were basically non-existent.

Alex Rodriguez was the third member of the 40/40 club when he stole 46 bases and clubbed 42 home runs in 1998. A-Rod was just 22 years old at the time, making him the youngest member of the club by just a year (Canseco was 23 years old). Rodriguez finished ninth in MVP voting. A-Rod would never eclipse 30 stolen bases in a season again, but he would go on to be one of the greatest hitters of all-time. However, he was no slouch on the base paths, as he averaged 22 stolen bases in a 13-year stretch from 1996 to 2009.

Alfonso Soriano was the last member of the club, and had maybe one of the most impressive stretches from 2002 to 2006 in regards to trying to crack this club. He was a 30/30 member in four of those five seasons, and missed joining the 40/40 club by just one home run in 2002 with the Yankees, where he hit 39 home runs and had 41 stolen bases. The next year, he would have 38/35. After being traded to Texas in the Alex Rodriguez deal, he had a down year before going 36/30 in 2005. Finally, in 2006 during Soriano’s one year with the Washington Nationals, he hit 46 home runs and had 41 stolen bases. He finished sixth in MVP voting.

Acuña certainly has the tools to reach this milestone, and I would go as far to say he is the only player currently in the MLB that is capable of accomplishing it. He is the perfect mix of power and speed. But not only that, you need to get on base. He is the leadoff man for the Braves, his OBP is .419, he is hitting .330. That lineup behind him is dangerous so you can’t necessarily pitch around him. All the pieces are there. Even if he doesn’t get it, he’ll probably win MVP anyway, not a bad consolation prize!