Eric Wedge Thinks Dustin Ackley is Our Fault
Wedge was talking about Ackley’s demotion to Triple-A and his mental approach, and he intimated that Ackley might have been too concerned with pitch selectivity and high on-base percentage, leading to a one-liner that hit on one of baseball’s most intriguing ongoing philosophical battles.
“It’s the new generation. It’s all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean?” Wedge said. “People who haven’t played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids’ heads.”
Hear that, everyone? We’ve gotten in Dustin Ackley’s head. His struggles over the last year and a half? Sabermetrics is to blame, what with all of our promoting “on base percentage” and “swinging at strikes”. Dustin Ackley’s failure is because all these new age ideas have gotten in his head.
Which, of course, perfectly explains why Ackley is posting the lowest walk rate of his career this season. His focus on drawing walks and getting on base has caused him to not draw walks nor get on base. We’re ruining everything!
On the other hand, when it comes to called strikeouts, Ackley has had a tougher go. His patience at the plate, some might deem it passiveness, has seen him post higher than average called strikeout rates at every level, ballooning somewhat in his years in the Majors. Dustin is no Drew Stubbs (10% of Stubbs’ PAs have ended in a called strikeout), but Ackley’s rate was 7.5% last year and is 6.4% this year whereas the average is about 4.5%.
Having visually watched Dustin Ackley for a little over a year now, that is not surprising either. The most vexing problem has been watching him take, and get called, on the so-called lefty strike repeatedly. Ackley has seemed a bit obstinate in accepting that, though technically not a strike by the book, the rule book isn’t the meaningful arbiter, the home plate umpire is.
As pitchers got to know Ackley, it appears that he may have developed a reputation that he had a weak spot there and he began to see more and more pitches in that location. It dipped back at the beginning of this season, but quickly climbed back up and has stayed above average for the rest of the season. Pitchers were, intentionally or not, exploiting Ackley’s weakness.
Using “sabermetrics”, Carruth (among many others) noted that Ackley takes a ton of called strikes on the outer half of the plate, and wrote that to be successful, Ackley would have to start swinging at these pitches more often. Yes, a sabermetric nerd suggested that Dustin Ackley was too passive at the plate. Huh. What do you know?
The idea that “all these people who haven’t played since they were 9 years old” have gotten in Dustin Ackley’s head by telling him to not swing at strikes is hilarious. We’ve been writing about Ackley’s weaknesses on the outer half of the plate for quite a while. I’m pretty sure that you won’t find any sabermetric thinkers who believe that taking called strikes in the same location over and over is a good offensive philosophy.
If you want to sum up the philosophy of “sabermetric thinking”, it’s basically take pitches out of the strike zone and swing at pitches in the strike zone. A lot of hitters swing too often, chasing pitches they have no chance of hitting with any authority. We would tell them all to try and be more selective. Some hitters don’t swing often enough, taking pitches down the middle in hitters counts when they should be trying to hit the crap out of meatballs. We would tell them all to try and be less selective.
You can probably make a pretty good case that Ackley has been too passive, though perhaps that’s the symptom and not the cause. Ackley’s swing has progressively become very pull-oriented, and he no longer covers the outer half of the plate very well. Perhaps Ackley isn’t swinging at pitches on the outer half because he knows he can’t hit them particularly well with his current swing. In that case, swinging more often wouldn’t be the solution; that would require an adjustment to his swing to get better coverage of the outer half of the plate.
But, what do I know, I haven’t played the game competitively since I was
nine years old 18-years-old. Everyone knows that the only people capable of offering any kind of intelligent analysis of baseball players are those who have Major League experience. You know, like Eric Wedge. That’s what’s made him such a successful Major League manager, with his career record of 725 wins and 784 losses. And, you know, clearly Wedge knows how to develop young talent, since he helped all those young players turn into superstars in Cleveland.
Oh, wait, Cleveland’s young players didn’t develop as well as they were expected, and Wedge has had two winning seasons in 10 years as a big league manager. Hmm. Maybe experience isn’t the only thing that matters after all?
Eric Wedge is going to be fired in the not too distant future. That move, in and of itself, won’t turn around the Mariners franchise. But it won’t hurt.
And no, before you ask, I don’t think I could do a better job of managing a baseball team than Eric Wedge. His job is hard, and I’m not qualified to do it. But there are a lot of other people in baseball who are, and who know more about the game than Eric Wedge. The Mariners would be better off with someone who has actually learned something about the sport in the last 30 years rather than someone who thinks that all this new age numbers crap is getting into the heads of his hitters.