After swiping 27 bags in a very impressive rookie campaign, Tigers' 24-year-old center fielder Austin Jackson has set his sights on 40 steals for the 2011 season:
To Tigers fans at the North American International Auto Show, Jackson might have raised some eyebrows on the team's Winter Caravan stop two weeks ago, when he answered a question from a fan on his goals for 2011. His answer was 40 stolen bases.
"I said it," he admitted to MLB.com this week. "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."
Aaron Gleeman of NBC's HardballTalk researched that only a total of six players have 40 or more stolen bases in their age-24 season during the past decade: B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo. It's interesting to note that five of those six increased their age-23 stolen base totals by at least 12. Juan Pierre is the lone outlier, but he did improve upon his age-24 season total by 18.
So how did they do it and what does Jackson need to do to rack up at least 13 more steals to get to 40 in 2011? Five of the six increased their walk totals, thus seeing more of first base and more steal opportunities. B.J. Upton is probably the closest of the six in comparison to Jackson -- simply in terms of what kind of jump Jackson needs to make to reach his goal (20-some steals to the 40s) -- and Upton walked 30 more times and cut down his Jackson-like strikeouts by 20.
If Jackson is able to cut down on his American Leading strikeout total and put the ball in play more often, it's reasonable to believe he'll turn some of those into hits. He had 32 infield hits last season, which is more than B.J. Upton has ever had and around Carl Crawford's career totals -- yeah, Jackson can get down the line.
Jackson may not need to change anything, though, other than his aggressiveness when he does get on base, and how he studies the pitchers and their respective moves. As Jason Beck notes in his article, Jackson is a green light guy, so the fact that no Tiger has stolen even 30 bases since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006 (a mere 5 years ago), and only three have reached 40 steals under Leyland in his 19 seasons as a manager, is pretty much irrelevant. As long as Jackson doesn't start getting gunned down at an unacceptable clip and get his green light taken away (he was only caught stealing six times last season), he has the ability to be a little bit more greedy on the base paths.
And that is what he said he'll do.