Austin Jackson stole 27 bases while finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year balloting last season and the 24-year-old center field said recently that his goal for 2011 is to swipe 40 bags.
I think it’s just setting a goal to try to reach it, because I think I’m capable of stealing more bags. I think I need to try harder at it. I have speed and that’s a part of my game, and I definitely think that I could use it more on the base paths. It’s really just stealing a bag, maybe getting in scoring position a little more, try to score some more runs. I think it’s a thing you just have to kind of learn. I think it’s a thing I need.
Jason Beck of MLB.com notes that no Tigers player has stolen 30 bases in a season since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006, so getting to 40 on a team that generally doesn’t run a ton could be tough. In fact, in 19 seasons as manager Leyland’s teams have had a 40-steal player just three times: Edgar Renteria in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 1990 and 1991.
Looking beyond the Tigers and Leyland’s teams, a total of six players have swiped 40 or more bases in their age-24 season during the past decade: B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo. And prior to going 27-for-33 on the bases as a rookie, Jackson averaged 33 steals per 150 games in the minors.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.