Dustin Ackley, And A Cautionary Tale About Trades

This was going to be a fun fact - one of those lame, unfun fun facts - until a broader application dawned on me. This is nothing most of you didn't already know, but sometimes it's good to get a reminder.

A week and a half ago, the Mariners promoted Dustin Ackley from Tacoma. The team has played nine games since then, and Ackley has started eight of them, appearing off the bench in the other. And Ackley has been a force. Tossing aside any concerns that he'd have problems adjusting, he's batted 9-for-30 with a double, two triples, a homer, and three walks. He presently owns the highest OPS on the team, and he's one umpire standing in the wrong spot away from having more extra-base hits than singles. In short, Ackley has been everything that we hoped he would be at the plate.

And yet, over those nine games, the Mariners have posted a .590 OPS, with 22 runs scored, or 2.4 per. Prior to Ackley's promotion, the team had a .640 OPS, and averaged 3.6 runs per game. I know that six of the nine games were played under NL rules, with pitchers hitting, but then the pitchers went 4-for-15 so it's not like they were awful. The Mariners' offense has simply been worse with Dustin Ackley than it was without him.

What does it all mean? Not much. We know that the Mariners are better with Ackley in the lineup, nevermind the results to date. There's no reason to believe otherwise. He's a very good player, taking time from an inferior player. But the variability in observed results is something to consider when you talk about making roster upgrades.

A lot of people want to see the M's make a trade. I'm one of them, even though a trade would be difficult. I would like to see the M's try to add a Major League left fielder, because I believe adding a left fielder at low cost would push this team closer to the playoffs.

And, in terms of probability, it would. An upgrade is an upgrade. But there are never any guarantees. The M's could upgrade and then watch their new player underachieve for the final few months. The M's could upgrade and then watch a bunch of other players underachieve for the final few months. The M's could upgrade and come away playing better, but they could also come away playing the same, or even playing worse. You just don't know. True talent is not always what's observed when you're talking about two or three months of baseball.

Is that a reason not to make a move? No, of course it isn't. Everything about baseball - and life! - is about improving one's odds. But it's something to keep in mind as the trade season nears. Baseball can be an unpredictable game. You can never know which decisions will end up fixing everything, and which decisions will end up fixing nothing at all.

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