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Good Ackley cometh


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There is a fair amount of consternation relative to the on field baseball performance of Dustin Ackley. The gnashing of teeth is understandable; after all, Dustin Ackley was something of a high draft pick, and his college teammates used to call him "Roy Hobbs", yet what it feels like he's given us is more akin to Calvin and Hobbes.

Or maybe Jekyll and Hyde.

Ackley is a frustrating player to be on the team you root for. Not because he looks like Ragnar Lothbok while commanding none of the same respect, but because he gives you glimpses of his latent talent betwixt long gazing stares of impotence. There have been calls for his benching (recall he was even sent to Tacoma at the beginning of 2014) and calls for patience and I'll tell you that I've thought more than once that the Mariners should just pull the plug on him and cut their losses. And yet, when Ackley finds the accelerator over periods of days and weeks, his results are good. Even great.

And that good version might be upon us.

Even more frustrating is Ackley has become a bit of a predictable first half disaster with a familiar two month window of wonderfulness. I hadn't realized it when I wrote about him last September, noting what a dramatic turnaround he had in 2014, but this is, well, a thing.

So yes, right now, as of this arbitrary half-way point that is actually well beyond the half-way point, Ackley is hitting .221/.280/.378, which is not very good at all, and by way of most nerd metrics puts him at or below replacement level. And as awful as that line might look, if not for these early days of July, he was hitting just .199/.259/.338 at the end of June. This, in the common parlance of financial investments, is horseshit. But if you look at his career, and that's over 2,200 plate appearances, Ackley shows up repeatedly in July and August:


I know many of you are mathematicians and quantum physicists so this doesn't require definition, but I like using wRC+ because it's a broader metric, using the entirety of offensive contributions, distilled down to one handy number where 100 is league average. Oh, and it's park and league-adjusted, which is neat-o.

So yeah, in his career Dustin Ackley shows up late to the dance but once he's there, he's basically Bing Crosby or John Travolta or Justin Timberlake, depending on your generation. But a 127 wRC+ is like having an Adam Jones or Yoenis Cespedes or a Michael Brantley around, which this lineup could desperately use more of. In fact, 2014 was a more dramatic version of this monster:


In 2014, Ackley was so, so, so bad in June and then he hit .365/.386/.506 in July, and by the end of August, even a former Seattle front office person was publicly wondering if Dustin Ackley was fixed.

Spring 2015 came and went with Ackley hitting .347/.407/.531 and as soon as the proverbial bell rang, he decided to go on a lunch break. From March through May, Ackley hit .188/.230/.325. Interestingly, he started his hot streak a little earlier this season:


What he's done in July is lost a little bit in terms of the scale here, but not only did Ackley have a nice little June with a wRC+ of 113, but so far in July, he's registering a wRC+ of 211, small sample and all. What he does the remainder of the year is anyone's guess, but if he acts at all like himself, he'll rake in July and August and turn into a pumpkin in September.

There are many things wrong with this team, and Dustin Ackley is one of those things. But if the Mariners plan on making anything at all remotely interesting, or at least buggering a few teams along the way to a .500 season, Ackley is going to have to be part of that success. Maybe Edgar Martinez can sprinkle some Gar dust on Ackley to find a more consistent approach, who knows. But in a fairly somber season, watching Dustin Ackley actually crush baseballs for the better part of two months is something I'm very much looking forward to.