04/09/09 8:35 PM ET
Winn stealing smarter, not just faster
Now batting leadoff, right fielder could attain 30 swipes
By Eric Gilmore / Special to MLB.com
Last year Winn stole 25 bases and was caught just twice. That's a success rate of 92.6 percent. Entering Thursday's game against the Brewers, he was already 2-for-2 in steals this season.
Winn finished two steals shy of his career high, 27, which he set in 2002, while with Tampa Bay. That season he was caught eight times. The year before, he stole 12 bases but was caught 10 times.
What's going on? Winn, admittedly, isn't getting faster as he ages.
"I'm trying to get a little bit smarter as I get older," Winn said before Thursday's game. "I'm doing a better job of picking my spots instead of going just to go. ... I'm just trying to be a better student of the game."
Winn stole two bases against the Brewers on Wednesday night, the 15th multi-steal game of his career. It's not far-fetched to think he could crack 30 this season, especially now that he's the regular leadoff hitter.
Last year he hit in the No. 3 spot in 92 of his starts. He hit leadoff 49 times and second eight times.
"Hitting third, it didn't give me as many opportunities," he said. "Now, [manager Bruce Bochy] has said, 'If you get the opportunity and you think you can go, then go.' It's nice to get back to that."
The entire eam is becoming more aggressive on the basepaths, Winn said.
"I think we have to be. We're not a home run-hitting team," he said. "But we do have guys that can hit-and-run and steal bases. You have to take advantage of the things you do well."
This year the Giants are taking full advantage of Winn's skill as a leadoff hitter. In three of the past four seasons, he's hit at least .300. He hit .300 in 2007 and .306 last season, becoming the first Giant other than Barry Bonds to post back-to-back .300 seasons since Will Clark in 1991 and 1992.
Once on base, especially in the first inning, Winn obviously knows what to do.
"If you can put immediate pressure on the defense, on the pitcher, that's your goal as a leadoff guy. To get on base," Winn said. "If you do that, you have a threat to steal. On our team, you've got guys who can hit-and-run.
"You're putting immense pressure on the defense and pitcher. That's what you want to do. You want to jump on the pitcher right away."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.