Dustin Ackley is really bad.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the source of this post:
Dave didn’t respond to my last comment, though a lot of Fangraphs readers chimed in to let me know how stupid I was.
Good read, gentlemen.
Delusions of Grandeur: The Dustin Ackley Story
Enough snark. Let’s do a little research, shall we? I tweeted Dustin Ackley’s minor league equivalencies (MLEs) for his minor league performance last night:
Ackley's MLEs: 2010 .238/.292/.364. 2011: .257/.354/.394
— Kyle @ Driveline (@drivelinebases) April 18, 2013
If you combine that with the 2011 MLB (Seattle) line of .273/.348/.417 over 376 PA, a reasonable 2012 projection using a standard weighting system (something like 5/3/2 or 5/2/1 depending on the components) would give you a park-adjusted value of .257/.338/.396. Even if you considered his collegiate hitting statistics, you would have to seriously worry about the fact that he absolutely crushed out-of-conference pitchers but was merely just very good against ACC competition and that he had a larger-than-usual negative split against left-handed pitching than most left-handed batters displayed.
Regardless, even I would agree that .257/.338/.396 is not a reasonable expectation for 2012 Dustin Ackley and would adjust upwards to some degree.
Of course, in 2012 over 668 PA, he hit .226/.294/.328, which was embarrassing on all counts. The wild card here is the Seattle Mariners player development group, who I believe are ruining position players. It doesn’t take a genius to look back at the prospects they’ve had that have vastly underperformed – and not just guys who didn’t cut the mustard, but total flops from guys who were “can’t miss” dudes like Montero, Smoak, Ackley, Saunders, etc.
You can hear Wedge talking about how he hates strikeouts and how more contact has to be made. Dustin Ackley did just that in 2012 – he improved his contact percentages and struck out less. What happened? His walk rate went to shit, his LD% dropped like a rock, he hit a ton of weak ground balls, and his isolated power vanished.
Great job, #6org player development – Ackley did exactly what you told him to do. Did you think he would strike out less, make more contact, and somehow retain his power?
But if we look back with the power of hindsight, what can we really conclude about Ackley? His entire career in professional has been lackluster outside of a small sample in 2011 – and the underlying numbers were worrisome to those who were willing to think critically. He struck out way too much (21%) for a guy who isn’t a big time power hitter (.144 ISO, only .185 in AAA that year), and his strikeout-to-walk ratio violently flipped when he hit the big leagues.
Dustin Ackley simply hasn’t been a very good professional baseball player, and likely needed far more time in Tacoma (something I said to many people back in 2011) to make the necessary to make adjustments before coming up for a full-time job. Batted ball data suggested he wasn’t tearing the cover off the ball in AA-AAA before his call up – he was hitting a slightly below-average amount of line drives and an abnormally above-average amount of ground balls against PCL pitchers.
The hype the Mariners blogosphere around Dustin Ackley massively distorted the most likely outcomes for him. While he’s been even worse than what a reasonable projection would have him at, there was no denying that his minor league statistics showed a real problem and that the adjustment from college to professional baseball hadn’t been successfully made.