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By the Numbers: Combo stats

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

You can find more from Michael Salfino at NESN

Even before the rapid ascent of fantasy baseball, we loved the combo guys. Not pretzels stuffed with cheese but rather homers and steals from a single source.

Our formula basically is the geometric mean of homers and steals. Got that, Einstein? The numbers don't mean much without really understanding the formula (developed by Bill James). Just trust that you have to do a lot of both to have a good number.

Seven guys in history have scored over 40 for a single season – Alex Rodriguez(notes) (1998), Alfonso Soriano(notes) (2006), Eric Davis (1987 and 1986, in order of combo score), Rickey Henderson (1986), Barry Bonds(notes) (1996 and 1990), Jose Canseco (1988) and Bobby Bonds (1973).

This year, no one is approaching that. But the league leader would have shocked us in March – Arizona's Mark Reynolds(notes) (13 homers, 11 bags). Four more guys are on pace for a 30 combo score – Ian Kinsler(notes), Nelson Cruz(notes), Torii Hunter(notes) and Curtis Granderson(notes).

Other players in the top 15 (in order) are Albert Pujols(notes), Jason Bartlett(notes), Jayson Werth(notes), Derek Jeter(notes), Hanley Ramirez(notes), Matt Kemp(notes), Grady Sizemore(notes), Nate McLouth(notes), Brian Roberts(notes) and Shin-Soo Choo(notes). As his owners surely know, Bartlett and Sizemore are hurt.

The good thing about our combo stats is that while you can luck your way into some fluky homer totals, you're not ever going to randomly pile up steals.

The notion of players lucking into homers ticks off people (especially players). But if Adrian Gonzalez(notes) hits 60 homers this year (he's on pace for 66), he's going to get too much credit. While he deserves credit for being one of the few human beings on the planet with legitimate 30-plus home run power, the homers he hits above 40 or so are strictly random. To illustrate, imagine a coin that instead of coming up heads half the time on average comes up homers once every 17 flips on average. The laws of probability say that once every 30 or so times that you flip that coin 600 times, you will not get 30-to-40 homers but instead will get 60-plus. That's why there's no such thing as a 60-homer hitter even when someone gets lucky enough to hit that many.

With that in mind, let's speculate on players who will rise, hold steady or fall relative to their current combo pace.

BUY

David Wright(notes), 3B, Mets: Most ignore the fact that CitiField is the ninth-most homer-friendly park as of today in the majors. It's in all the other parks where the Mets and their opponents really don't hit homers. Wright will finish with his normal 25-plus and the steals are there.

Brandon Phillips(notes), 2B, Reds: He's got the power (career-high slugging percentage) but hasn't been willing enough on the bases – just seven attempts and on pace for about 21 after 33 last year. He'll get to the 20 bombs, for sure, and then he can pile on some bags at the end to at least go 20/20 (most of those for you if you get him now).

B.J. Upton(notes), OF, Rays: He's on pace for 45 steals, but the power is almost non-existent. He can hit them in bunches, though, like he did with since surgically-repaired shoulder last October. If you need to gamble for greatness, this is the one guy who can deliver who also is cheap enough to target.

Vernon Wells(notes), OF, Blue Jays: He's on pace for 27 steals and is 9-for-9 stealing. However, he's slugging .408 and that will not continue. Wells is getting the bad end of that random scale. Bet that he hits at a 25 homer pace going forward, which means about 17 bombs for you.

HOLD

Adam Jones(notes), OF, Orioles: He's breaking out in a multitude of important ways, but the one way we'd thought we'd get back in March was in steals, as he went on a spring training binge (7-for-7). That seems like ages ago and he's not running more at all when you factor in his much higher rate of getting on base.

Johnny Damon(notes), OF, Yankees: Like Phillips, it's the steals that are surprisingly keeping him off the combo leader board. He's 5-for-5, though, and I'll bet the steals will come when he feels like running. Unlike Phillips, though, I can't buy him hitting near his current homer pace.

SELL

Carlos Beltran(notes), OF, Mets: He's stolen one base since May 15 due to some knee tendonitis. So he'll have to dial it down on the bases even more than he normally does. Maybe the knee is sapping his power, too (no homers since May 9).

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: He's being crafty but teams will work him now and make him earn those bags. Plus, he can't steal first and is on pace to strike out 200-plus times again.

Michael Salfino's work has appeared in USA Today's Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet, including SNY.tv, for which he also analyzes the Mets and Yankees. He's been writing "Baseball by the Numbers" weekly since 2005.

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