SAN DIEGO -- In his 204 Major League games prior to this season, Michael Saunders stole 16 bases. This year, he has swiped 12 bags in his first 70 games. What gives?
For one thing, Saunders is getting on base far more frequently. His batting average of .267 and on-base percentage of .332, heading into Sunday's series finale with the Padres, are a huge step forward from career .196 and .263 marks.
But the 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder has also taken a more aggressive approach in all aspects of his game this season, including the basepaths where he stole two more bags in Saturday's 5-1 win.
"I'm always looking to try and take the extra base," said Saunders, who is 12-for-15 in his steal attempts. "I think as a club we are pretty aggressive on the basepaths. [Base running coach] Mike Brumley helps me a lot. He's taught me a lot about base stealing, how it's more of a skill especially at this level with how good the pitchers are at holding on and the catchers behind the plate will give you a good throw 95 percent of the time.
"We'll go over scouting reports and video and break down the starting pitchers on that day and go over the bullpen. Just trying to give us the extra edge on the basepaths."
The Mariners stole a season-high four bases in five attempts on Saturday, with Saunders leading the way.
"I think he's just more aggressive in general this year," manager Eric Wedge said. "His whole mindset is different. He just has a get-after attitude. He's coming here on a mission every day and it's paying off for him."