Dustin Ackley’s Last Stand

In the wake of Guti going back on the DL after two days off the DL, we have Dustin Ackley’s call up from Triple-A.

In 25 games in Tacoma, Ackley hit .365/.472/.500, with 28 singles, 8 doubles, 2 homers, 19 walks, and 14 strikeouts.  So, it’s official:  Dustin Ackley is too good for Triple-A.  Truth be told, I think we knew that already.  I don’t think anyone expected Ackley to go down and CONTINUE to struggle.  The PCL is where struggling hitters go to get healthy!  In the literal and figurative sense.

The name of the game is building up confidence.  I don’t know what it means to lack confidence in a Major League setting, but I guess it means thinking too much?  I dunno.  Honestly, I don’t care.  There are a million-billion guys out there who are too good for Triple-A, but not quite good enough for the Major Leagues.  Is Dustin Ackley one of them?  We should know very soon.

This wasn’t an issue of him working on mechanics.  Admittedly, Ackley didn’t change much of anything when he went down.  He just started playing baseball again, in the no-pressure environment of Tacoma, with a team that’s the toast of the PCL.  So, since that’s the case, there shouldn’t really be a grace period, since he’s not bringing any adjustments with him to the Majors.  All of his adjustments are mental.  Those should be ready to go right now.

Either Dustin Ackley is going to figure it out over the second half of this season, or he’s not.  If he figures it out:  GREAT!  That means everyone was right all along when they said he’s a pure hitter.  But, if he doesn’t figure it out, then we all have to admit that he probably doesn’t have what it takes.  Meaning:  he just doesn’t have the mental make up to succeed at a Major League level.  He can’t take the pressure.  It wouldn’t be the first time, it won’t be the last.  It takes a certain set of balls to make it in the Bigs, and some people just don’t have ’em.

The pressure is even bigger on Ackley because he’s already been supplanted from his second baseman’s job.  Now, he knows the leash is just a little bit tighter.  He’s not guaranteed the spot on this team he once had.  He knows now more than ever that if he doesn’t produce, he will be out on his ass.  Granted, there’s not a ton of outfield prospects in the minors, but free agency is only a few short months away.  Dustin Ackley needs to get his ass in gear, or else.

I usually like to buy in to these types of notions, of players going to the minors, mashing the ball, and coming back up better than ever.  I like the stories of guys who were able to turn their seasons around on a dime and go on to greatness.  But, truth be told, I doubt we’ll see that out of Ackley.  This isn’t even me being overly cautious after being burned so many times before.  This is just me, with my eyes, watching a guy ground out to second base over and over and over again.  Sometimes balls are hit hard, but right at defenders.  More often than not, it’s weak contact or it’s no contact at all.

The Dustin Ackley we all thought we were getting should walk more than he strikes out, should hit for a high average, should hit to all fields, should hit anywhere from 20-30 doubles with around 10-15 homers.  The Dustin Ackley we have now strikes out WAY more than he walks, hits for a pathetic average, only hits to right field, and was on pace for about 15 total extra-base hits.  That’s in him.  Right now, that’s who he is.  Even if he DOES come around to have a decent second half, how can we be confident that he has turned it around completely – going into next year and beyond?

My guess:  in the end, Ackley will land somewhere in the middle.  He’s still going to strike out more than he walks, he’ll hit for a .240 average, he’ll still hit primarily to right field, and he’ll finish a season with 20 extra-base hits.  I think that’s what you’re looking at, going forward, if Ackley is given a full-time job.  In the end, he’ll end up as a decent utility guy who you have to platoon by not playing him against left-handed pitchers.  His numbers will probably improve the less you play him.  But, either way, he won’t be what one would expect out of a #2 overall draft pick (and the first hitter selected).  Which just leads you to shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s so Mariners …”

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