Hello again, friends! Back for more Seattle Mariners content, I see? Then more Seattle Mariners content I shall deliver, because who would have anything else on a comfortable Thursday summer night? There's a twist, though: this concludes with a poll. I'm giving you content, and in return, you guys are kind of giving me content. Thank you for working overtime.
I probably don't need to remind you of how Dustin Ackley was billed. Ackley was one of those guys who could "fall out of bed and hit .300," provided he slept beside a batter's box. He was in the same draft as Stephen Strasburg, and Strasburg looked to be something extraordinary, but Strasburg was also a pitcher, and so there was an argument that Ackley should've gone first overall. Not a great argument, not the right argument, but not a completely nonsensical argument. On the basis of position players being more predictable than pitchers and on the basis of Ackley looking like a sure thing, yeah, the Nationals could've gone for Ackley without drawing justifiable widespread laughter.
So Ackley hit in the minors and blah blah blah and eventually he made it to Seattle where he came out of the gate on fire. He opened the gate and emerged from the yard with his clothes on fire. Once somebody doused the fire and gave Ackley a new uniform, he terrorized opposing pitchers. Ackley debuted on June 17, 2011. On August 5, he went to bed with a .925 OPS.
Then Ackley started to slide. Conveniently, that was about a calendar year ago, and conveniently, FanGraphs allows one to check out the leaderboards over the past calendar year. Ackley slumped to finish 2011 and he's basically slumped for all of 2012, although "slump" suggests a guy is better than those numbers and who really knows? Anyway, over the past calendar year, Ackley has batted 667 times. There have been 196 batters to bat at least 400 times over the same span of time. Ackley's wOBA ranks tied for 18th-worst. At .287, Ackley's exactly tied with a certain Ichiro Suzuki. That would be phenomenal had Ichiro not long ago lost his exclamation point. Also the .287 wOBA. That is anti-phenomenal, for a position player.
Scan some of the names ahead of Ackley on the leaderboard. Dee Gordon. Casey Kotchman. Jamey Carroll. Scan some of the names below him. Ryan Theriot. Cliff Pennington. Robert Andino. Ackley's WAR has been salvaged by statistically solid defense, but it's clear that, for a full year, Ackley hasn't hit like he was supposed to hit. His wOBA has been lower than his expected batting average.
Which brings us to the present. This was supposed to be a development season, and Ackley's best two months at the plate were April and May. He's batted .186 since the All-Star break, and this isn't one of those things you can try to blame on the bizarre 2012 Safeco Effect - Ackley's road OBP is .298. Dustin Ackley has by no measure been good, and he's 24 years old. He was supposed to hit well, if not from the very beginning, then somewhat soon thereafter. The problem with polished, sure-thing college bats is that they only sometimes work out that way. Jake Gautreau dropped out of affiliated baseball after 2007 after being drafted in 2001. You might not remember anything about Jake Gautreau but for some reason he's stuck in my mind all along.
So I'm here to gauge how much faith you guys still have in Dustin Ackley, because as much as I've been questioning things, I'm one guy. When possible it's important to get out of your own head and look at a bigger picture. I'd like to look at the bigger picture of the audience response. The poll is deliberately subjective and it should do just fine. Dustin Ackley was drafted three years ago and he's coming up on 900 plate appearances as a major leaguer. Ever since I wrote it I've continued to be haunted by the memory of Jeremy Reed. Alex Rodriguez had it going by now. Adrian Gonzalez had it going by now. Chase Utley only blossomed at 26. Understanding that everybody feels better about Dustin Ackley than about Justin Smoak, how does everybody feel about Dustin Ackley, after all this time?