McLaren wants Ichiro to run this season
Manager thinks his center fielder could approach 80 steals
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Eyebrows were raised during the offseason when Mariners manager John McLaren mentioned that Ichiro Suzuki could steal 80 bases this season.But that is not to say McLaren expects his center fielder to steal 80 bases. "He has done everything so well in his career, winning batting battles and Gold Gloves, that the bar is set high for him," McLaren said. "He's a numbers guy, and I just like him and others to think, 'I am capable of doing this.' That  was a number I pulled out of a hat." It has been a while since anyone in the Major Leagues stole at least 80 bases in a season. All-time theft leader Rickey Henderson swiped 93 bases in 1988 to lead the American League, and Vince Coleman pilfered 81 bases for the Cardinals that season to capture the fourth of his six consecutive National League stolen base titles. Since then, only Henderson (1989), Kenny Lofton ('93, '96) and Brian Hunter ('97) have stolen at least 70 bases in the AL, while Coleman ('90), Marquis Grissom ('91, '92), Tony Womack ('99), Scott Podsednik (2004) and Jose Reyes ('07) have reached the 70-stolen base mark in the NL. However, when it comes to numerical achievements, Ichiro is so strong-willed that he probably could get into the 70s -- if he really wanted to. Ichiro's single-season high in stolen bases is 56, set in 2001, his first season with Seattle. He has pilfered 30-something bases five times and swiped 45 bases in 2006. His one-year high during his nine-year career in Japan was 49, in 1995. "As much as he gets on base, and as fast as he is, there's no telling how many bases he could steal in a season," McLaren said. "But we don't want him running just to run. There has to be a purpose behind it. "We don't want him running with the idea of stealing 80 bases. It's all geared to winning games." When asked if McLaren's forecast was possible, Ichiro said, "I could steal 80 bases ... if I would get thrown out 70 times. When you run that much, there is a risk involved." But perhaps it's not as big of a risk as he thinks. The success rate during Ichiro's seven-year MLB career is 81 percent (272-for-338), and his base-stealing percentage has been better the past three seasons (86 percent) than it was in his first four seasons (77 percent). That is a clear indication that he reads pitcher's pickoff moves better now than earlier in his career.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.