Dustin Ackley‘s struggles to this point of his career have obviously led to a lot of disappointment, anger, and probably some prayers for a break-out. But it has also caused people to search high and low for some kind of sign that suggests he is likely to reach the potential that most people assigned to him. One way that people do this is to look for a comparisons. They try to find another player who had similar expectations, but took awhile to reach them.
And the prime candidate seems to be Alex Gordon. Gordon won multiple awards in college, leading him to be selected 2nd overall in 2005. He then hit well in the minors, and was even named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. But, it all went down from there.
In his first MLB season, Gordon posted a lowly .316 wOBA and 87 wRC+, far below expectations. He had another disappointing season in 2008, and then saw his playing time decrease over the next few years. He went from the next big thing, to the next big bust. From the next George Brett, to “Who is Alex Gordon?”. But again things changed, this time for the better. He had a breakout year in 2011, posting a .382 wOBA and 141 wRC+, coupled with great defense in left field, which then led to a 6.7 WAR season.
So it is easy to see where the comparisons come from. They are similar players who both failed to reach expectations at the beginning of their careers. But let’s look at how the two actually compare through 1161 plate appearances. (Note: I used the triple-slash instead of wOBA and wRC+ because they are easier to calculate by myself. Also, the Swing and Contact rates may not be 100% accurate, but close enough.)
Unfortunately, the comparison is not as close as people want it to be at this point. Gordon has the edge in everything except Contact% and K rate, two pretty minor stats. You would hope that your K rate is low and contact rate is high, but it isn’t necessary to find success.
The biggest difference though is the slugging percentage. Ackley’s power-outage this year is something I touched on before, and is really holding him back. His BB% is also way down this year as well, so that needs to change too if he wants to be more than a singles only hitter with an empty .250 average. (Hint: That isn’t very valuable.)
So at this stage of the game, the comparison looks pretty baseless. Sure, they were both highly regarded prospects who struggled/are struggling. But Ackley has out-struggled Gordon, and it is not even close. Plus, Gordon was a 2+ fWAR player even with an 87 wRC+ because of his awesome defense. And while Ackley has looked pretty solid out there himself, I don’t think he can hit like he is and still be considered an average starter (~2 WAR for those who don’t know).
Remember when I said people are constantly looking for glimmers of hope? Well, I am one of those people. Because of that, I ran another regression designed to “predict wOBA”. I ran a regression to project BABIP a few weeks ago, so refer to that if you need any more information or details on what a regression is.
Here are the results:
|Adjusted R Square||0.732239|
|Coefficients||Standard Error||t Stat||P-value||Lower 95%||Upper 95%||Lower 95.0%||Upper 95.0%|
As you can see, I used ISO, O-Swing and Z-Contact as the “predictors”, because they represent the three phases of hitting — those being power, patience and contact — very well. And that turned out to be true, as there is a very high r^2, at .73.
So, using those numbers, we can try to predict what a player’s wOBA should be, to about 73% accuracy. When we do so for Gordon, using his numbers in his first 1161 plate appearances, we get the following equation:
0.084 + 0.58 * .168 – 0.11 * .24 + .21 * .84 = .331
So according to this formula, Gordon’s wOBA “should” have been around .331. And that is right between the .316 and .343 he put up in 2007 and 2008 respectively, which I think helps the credibility of this formula. He has since surpassed that obviously, but at that point in his career, that’s about the kind of hitter he was. It also kind of gives us something to compare Ackley too, because we know that it can be pretty accurate.
Now for Ackley:
.084 + 0.58 * 0.11 – 0.11 * 0.25 + .21 * 0.90 = .309
This is telling us that Ackley’s career wOBA should be around .309. His actual career wOBA? .293, a decent clip lower than the prediction. But you know what is kind of cool (for my self-esteem, not Ackley), is that if we factor in the standard error, which in this case is about 0.15, we get either .294, or .324. Ackley’s actual career wOBA is .293, .001 away from the negative standard error. That may just be a coincidence. I don’t have a good enough grasp of statistical analysis of this nature. But it certainly looks like it makes sense. We don’t want to focus on the negative though. This is supposed to give us hope, not reassure us that Ackley is bound to be bad.
If we look at the positive deviation, as I said before, we get a .324 wOBA. I think most of us would definitely take that kind of offense from Ackley, especially at his position, along with his above average defense. And, in yet another scary coincidence/vote of confidence for the accuracy of this whole thing, if take the standard deviation of Gordon’s .331 wOBA, you get .346, .003 away from the wOBA he posted the following year. Man I am good/lucky.
Anyway, I really do not know if there is anything conclusive from this last part. I mainly did this to fulfill my own curiosity, and to use meaningful math. As I said, I do not know if the things I found are a sign of luck or accuracy. I am leaning towards accuracy, but I really do not know. Maybe someone out there does. But either way, just take it for what it’s worth. Or completely ignore that part if you don’t believe math. Do whatever you want. Be your own person. Don’t do drugs. Sorry, off topic.
The first part though I think is very important. There really aren’t many similarities between Ackley and Gordon. Their levels of suck are vastly different. Ackley wants to be Alex Gordon of now when he grows up, but would not complain if he became 2007-08 Gordon either. That is how different these two guys are/were, and how ridiculous it is to compare them just because they both struggled in some way early in their careers. I mean, if you are comparing them just to reassure yourself that it gets better, then fine. But I would be very careful about assuming that Ackley is bound to become an All-Star all the sudden because Gordon is.
The harsh truth is, Ackley lacks the power that Gordon has. He led the league in doubles last year, and had 23 homers the year before. Ackley is going to have to make a massive improvement if he wants to get anywhere close to that kind of production. Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? Unfortunately, no.
Kyle Seager‘s long admired hitting streak came to an end on Tuesday, finishing at 16 games. And it was extremely impressive, even as far as streaks go, as he hit .390/.455/.661 during that time. But, unfortunately it is over, and it is time to move on.
And what better place to move to than another Mariner infielder who currently has a hitting streak of his own. That player is Dustin Ackley, whose streak currently sits at 10 games. The streak began in Texas on May 20th, and Ackley will look to extend it to 11 games tonight. During his streak, Ackley has hit an astounding .417. And on the surface, that looks amazing. Heck, its blows Seager’s .390 mark out of the water. The problem is, that Seager also produced a ton of power, while Ackley is not doing the same. His triple-slash line as a whole is .417/.421/.472, which, while still very good, does not really coincide with a .417 average. The reason for this is that during the streak, Ackley has only walked once, and has mustered just two extra base hits, both doubles. So while he is making great contact and seemingly hitting the ball at least moderately hard, he isn’t walking or getting anything in the gaps or over the fence.
Something else that is just as unnerving is that his BABIP during that stretch is a wildly unsustainable .455. That, combined with the fact that he has had no power or ability to draw walks tells us that what is happening is a little flukey, even for a hitting streak.
But lets expand this a little more, because he started hitting better before the streak started. Going back to the 13th, Dustin has a hit in 14 of 16 games, compiling a triple slash over that time of .328/.328/.379. Again, not as impressive as the average suggests. So while it may seem like he has had some massive turn around, it turns out he has merely been a somewhat respectable player instead.
Now lets expand even further, and look at the year as a whole. Ackley is currently hitting.253/.284/.286, with a .255 wOBA and 62 wRC+. More of the same in terms of the average vs. the rest. It is up to .253, almost 30 points higher than it was last year. But on the flip side, his OBP is down 10 points, and his slugging is down 42. Remember when I mentioned that he had only walked once and had 2 extra base hits during his streak. Well, you can (only) add 2 walks and 1 extra base hit to that for his season totals.
That’s right. Ackley only has 3 walks and extra base hits (all doubles) on the year. And it turns out that his patience and power were pretty much just as good when everyone was ready to send him down as they are during the 10 game streak. He currently holds a 3.1% walk rate for the year. Last year, it was 8.8%. Fortunately, his walk rate probably isn’t quite stable yet, so some positive regression is likely. But what probably have stabilized are his plate discipline numbers. And what is interesting is that there have not been massive changes from last year to now. His Swing% is up 1.6%, and his O-Swing is up 1.1%. So while there is some change, it is not all that dramatic, and probably doesn’t account for a 5.7% drop in walks.
So what can you take from this jumbled mess of flaky numbers? Well the whole purpose of this post at the beginning was to suggest that Dustin Ackley really hasn’t been all that much better during his streak than he was before. That is not true in some ways, but it is in others. He still has little to no power, and is not walking nearly enough. It is all up to how you interpret the numbers. He has been better for sure. But to what degree?
Another thing is that his walk rate may drop a little from what it was last year, but likely not the 5% it currently has. He is not swinging that much more than he used to, and his O-Swing is still about 5% lower than league average. Plus his K rate is at 13.4%, down 5.3% from last year, so it isn’t as though he is swinging at a bunch of crap and striking out a ton. All of that screams regression because it really just does not add up. A guy who swings and strikes out around 5% less than the average player who only walks 3% of the time? I don’t think so. There is a chance that he is just putting everything they throw at him in play as his Contact% is at 88.3% (~7% above average), and he isn’t allowing himself to walk or strikeout at all. But I am not really sold on that either, so I expect regression.
The streak is encouraging. Ackley is making lots of contact, and looks a lot better than he did at the start of the year. But the lack of power and decrease in walks to present a problem of their own. He has the contact part down it seems (but remember the .455 BABIP). Now let’s see if he can figure out how to draw a walk like he used to, and maybe put a few in the seats — or at least in the gap — here and there. If he can do that, we may see something a lot closer to what we first envisioned for Ackley.
So far this season, the Mariners have been a little disappointing by most standards in a few different ways. They lost two out of three to the Astros, one of those games being a 16-9 blowout. They are sitting at 5-8, which despite putting them in 3rd place, does not feel very good. The offense and pitching have both been spotty. Felix, Iwakuma and Saunders have all been solid, but even the King has had his rough moments. The back end of the rotation though, has been pretty atrocious to this point.
Michael Morse, Franklin Gutierrez and Kendrys Morales are all hitting pretty well, but the youth movement has not done much moving. Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager are all hitting around .2oo or below, and none of the four has hit a home run yet. In fact, they only have eight extra base hits between them (all doubles), six of them coming from Seager. As a group, they have posted a .473 OPS to this point in the young season.
But something that makes that horrible production look slightly less horrible is the fact that their group BABIP is also crazy l0w at .216, and there is no way that is even close to sustainable. Their average career BABIP is .280, 64 points higher than what it currently is.
So let’s break this down even further, and look at the individual. I am going to focus on Dustin Ackley, for a couple reasons. One, he is my guy. And two, I think he is being affected the most by a low BABIP, not just this year, but last as well. Ackley is hitting .122 on the year, with a .139 BABIP. His career BABIP, however, is .283. So what we can do to get a rough estimate of what we would ‘expect’ him to hit, is take his Balls in play*(.283) + HR / AB. Here is what we get:
35 * (.283) + 0 / 40 = .248
That very very rough estimate tells us that Ackley “should” be hitting about .248 this year, if he BABIP-ed at his career rate. But BABIP can be pretty noisy itself, especially in (less than) two seasons, in which his BABIP’s varied by 74 points. So how do we know that he will sustain that number for the future? I mean, for a guy as fast and skilled as he is, one would think he could sustain a BABIP that is a little on the high side. But there is also the fact that is seems like he makes fairly weak contact, which would drive him towards a lower BABIP. As you can see, its hard to know what Ackley’s batting average on balls in play should be.
Well, we have a way to try and predict what a player’s BABIP “should be.” It involves some statistical analysis called regression. I myself was not familiar with this, but with some, and by that I mean a lot of (and by that I mean I owe most of this part to him) help from Matthias Kullowatz of NASORB, I was able to create a system that does a fair job of predicting BABIP. Now, this is also by no means perfect. It is very difficult to predict BABIP as it tends to vary from year to year more than most offensive stats.
I used FanGraphs’ leaderboards to gather the BABIP, LD%, Z-Contact%, GB% and IFH% of every player with 1000 or more plate appearances from 2007-2012. I then put that data into Excel, and ran the regression.
This next part is going to be pretty mathy, and you don’t have to understand it to get the point. If you want, you can just skip down for a while until I indicate the end of the mathy-ness, although I would recommend you read all of it, as it won’t get that confusing.
|Adjusted R Square||0.528795|
|Coefficients||Standard Error||t Stat||P-value||Lower 95%||Upper 95%||Lower 95.0%||Upper 95.0%|
So basically, this is designed to tell us the relationships between the variables at hand. In our case, its how LD%, Z-Contact%, GB%, and IFH% relate to BABIP. The P-Value is essentially how significant that particular variable was in explaining the BABIP. The lower the number, the better the coorelation. After a lot of playing around, this seemed like the best set, as shown by the R^2 value above. That basically measures the correlation between the variables. And it may not seem like a very high number, but most others were 0.3 or below, because as I said before, BABIP is pretty tricky to predict. For our purposes, it should be more than sufficient. The rest of the numbers you can just ignore because they have no bearing on this particular study.
From here, we can use the numbers to calculate the “expected” BABIP for any given player. The formula for this is as follows**:
Intercept + LD coefficient * LD% + Z-Contact coefficent * Z-Contact% + GB coefficent * GB% + IFH coefficent * IFH%
So plugging in those numbers for Ackley, first for his numbers this year, we get (Oh, and this is where you should pick up if you skipped the math):
.252 + .733 * .12 – .204 * .97 + .162 * .58 + .273 * .14 = .274
So judging by his rates from this year, he “should” have a BABIP around .274. But there is a problem with using this year’s numbers for LD% and IFH%. That problem being that those both take just as long to stabilize as BABIP itself, meaning the number we are getting may not be super accurate. They are probably due for regression themselves. But before I move on, let’s use the .274 because it techinally “is” what we would “expect” him to do so far this year.
36 * .274 + 0 /41 = .241
Based on the very noisy and bound-to-change rates of this year, Ackley should be hitting .241, which while not particularly good, is better than the actual .122 he currently has.
But I tend to believe that should be taken with a grain of salt, and the career numbers are going to be more reliable for our purposes. Here is what it looks like with his career numbers:
.252 + .733 * .20 – .204 * .91 + .162 * .44 + .273 * .09 = .309
Maybe it is just the homer in me, but that .309 looks more reasonable than the .274 above. So that is what we will run with to give us our more accurate “prediction” of what to expect from Ackley in the future BABIP wise, which will then translate to his production.
36 * .309 + 0 / 41 = .271
The career numbers are telling us that Ackley “should” be about a .271 hitter, based on the rates that went into the regression. Keep in mind that that is per his 41 ABs this season, and none of this is by any means finite. He has yet to hit a home run, hence the zero in the equation above. If he had just one homer this year, his predicted average is up to .288, which shows how violent this all can be.
I basically just wanted to demonstrate that Ackley, and most of the Mariners, have been extremely unlucky to this point. And no matter how you slice the rambling above, I think I made that pretty clear. Whether the .309 estimate was accurate or not (I think it was), Ackley is due for some positive regression himself. People with his skill set simply do not struggle as bad as he has, and the math above demonstrates that.
Ackley could be a special case and one of those guys that is just “unlucky” for whatever reason. Or he could surpass the .309 projection because he is just that cool. It is still all up in the air. But I felt this could give us a quick, and fairly accurate picture of what kind of hitter the M’s 2nd baseman “should” be for the future. I certainly needed the reassurance that Ackley still has a chance to figure it out, and I am sure some of you did too.
There really is no definite conclusion to draw from this since it is all just a projection based on a few different explanatory variables, and so many other things go into a player’s BABIP. There is, rather,a fairly simple and open ended one, that being what I have already said too many times in this article: Dustin Ackley has been unlucky, and is better than his performance has led us to believe. Just give it some time.
*Hopefully all that was clear enough. As I said, my understanding is far from complete itself, so explaining it wasn’t easy. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.
** The formula I created can be used for any player if you want to do the same with another one of the struggling Mariner’s to ease your worrying.
***Just for funsies, if you predict his career average rather than just this year, you get .256, which looks a little better than his actual .238 career average.
SSN Twitterbag: Antoine Winfield’s future, Mariner busts, the limit on what we’ll let fall in our beer, and more
It’s like a mailbag, but with Twitter. Because outside of work, no one sends emails anymore. To participate in future Twitterbags, look for the #SSNTwitterbag hashtag and follow along, @alexSSN.
Will Antoine Winfield sign [with the Seahawks]? -via @caseyc8
Winfield, a 35-year-old free agent cornerback just released by Minnesota, is one of the premier players at his position, even at this late stage in his career. A former All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl honoree, Winfield reportedly worked out with the Seahawks just a few days ago.
To atone for my relative ignorance on Winfield’s contractual prospects, I went to one of the brightest football minds I know for some help. My buddy Curtis Crabtree (speaking of Twitter, follow him @Curtis_Crabtree) — who covers the Seahawks for Sports Radio KJR, as well as the west coast for ProFootballTalk — was able to provide some insight for us on the situation:
“Winfield would fill a big need for Seattle as a slot cornerback,” said Curtis. “Seattle has more cap space available than Minnesota and his release from the Vikings wasn’t particularly amicable. Minnesota is pushing hard to keep him, but the manner of his release may push him to head to the Seahawks.”
Winfield was released by the Vikings on March 12, a move made in large part to clear cap space. His termination was brought to his attention while he was working out at the team’s facility, hence the less-than-amicable separation.
With more money to offer and the potential of a Super Bowl season ahead, it certainly appears like the Seahawks may have the inside track on Winfield right now.
Is it still too early to call [Dustin] Ackley and/or [Jesus] Montero a bust? -via @AndyTheG
Yes. Without a doubt, yes.
Sure, both Ackley and Montero have struggled for the bulk of their tenures in Seattle, and have especially struggled of late. While each were deemed top prospects, both have been seemingly cursed by the expectations that come along with such lofty praise.
Though there’s still time for both Ackley and Montero to develop, perhaps most concerning is the fact that neither player has shown much in the way of improvement over much of the past year. Ackley has showcased a revamped batting stance that looks about as comfortable as a pair of skinny jeans, while Montero’s weight transfer has been atrocious, sending him flailing out in front of pitches before they’re halfway to home plate.
Ackley will be granted plenty of time to work out his issues, with seemingly no other options at second base. (Unless the team wants to shift Kyle Seager over there and see what they have in a third base prospect, such as Nick Franklin; unlikely at this point.) Montero, on the other hand, is under the gun with 2012 first-round draft pick Mike Zunino off to a blazing start at Triple-A Tacoma. Fans are already eager for Zunino’s arrival, and if the organization is forced to promote him out of merit, it will likely be Montero that either finds his way to the minors or suffers from limited playing time.
Another factor in all this is Justin Smoak, who may be closer to “bust” status than either of his younger counterparts. Smoak is hanging by a final thread with the M’s, and if he can’t reveal any promise over the first few weeks of the season, his days in a Mariners uniform are undoubtedly numbered. Smoak and Montero are inextricably tied to one another in that each can lay claim to a finite number of at-bats in the lineup. Should Zunino arrive in Seattle and remain entrenched behind the plate, as expected, the team will need to find an alternate plan for Montero. Were he to shift to designated hitter, that would push Kendrys Morales over to first base, eliminating Smoak’s role with the ballclub. Longer term, the M’s may have plans to utilize Montero as a first baseman, since that is really the only other position on the field he could capably play.
Either way, one fact remains: Zunino’s arrival in Seattle will dramatically alter the roles of either Montero or Smoak, and possibly both. And it’s not so much “if” Zunino arrives as it is “when.” Between Montero and Smoak, will a bust emerge in due time? Probably so.
How much are you going to miss Abdul Gaddy running the point next year? -via @AZinSeattle
About as much as I miss Ed Hardy shirts, episodes of Gilmore Girls, awkward middle school slow dances, and Chone Figgins, combined. Good riddance.
What will our NHL team be called? Thunderbirds, or something new and fierce like Seattle Frozen Rain Droplets? -via @waltswarriors
First of all, nicknames that invoke nature or acts of nature are usually reserved for WNBA teams. The Sun, the Storm, the Sky, the list goes on. That said, a fiercer act of nature like Frozen Rain Droplets may have potential. Perhaps something even more geographically relevant — like Seattle Icy Pavement, or Seattle Drive Slow In The Rain — might be worth considering.
In reality, the favorites in the clubhouse so far seem to be Thunderbirds and Metropolitans, with Metropolitans getting the early nod. The Metropolitans reference is a tip of the cap to days gone by — the Seattle Mets were the first Stanley Cup Champions, after all — while the Thunderbirds are of course most pertinent to today’s generation of local hockey fans. Personally, I’m not really biased towards either nickname, which may mean we need something new altogether. Perhaps a naming contest is in order…
How good will Husky hoops in general be next year? Nationally ranked? Tourney bound at least? -via @AndersJorstad
Over the span of a few weeks, the Huskies have gone about revamping their roster in a curious fashion, putting themselves in the conversation for a return to Pac-12 relevance in 2013-2014.
Back in March, the Huskies landed a verbal commitment from JUCO swingman Mike Anderson, a 6-5 guard-forward who averaged 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds at Moberly Area Community College this past season. Though not a big name, Anderson’s résumé immediately invoked memories of another former junior college transfer from days gone by, Tre Simmons.
In addition to Anderson, it’s been rumored in recent days that UNLV forward Mike Moser will be playing his senior season on Montlake as a graduate transfer, meaning he’s eligible to contribute immediately and will not need to redshirt. Moser is finishing up his undergraduate studies this year and because of a prior redshirt season taken when he migrated from UCLA to Las Vegas, still maintains a year of NCAA eligibility. Though he’d only play one year with the Huskies, the 6-8 Moser would undoubtedly be a major contributor if healthy. Coming out of high school in the Portland area, Moser was heavily recruited by a number of teams across the nation, including Washington. Though Lorenzo Romar ultimately missed out on Moser, he may have a chance to secure the ex-Rebel for his collegiate swan song. You can read more about the impending transfer here.
With another senior, 6-9 power forward Perris Blackwell, set to make his Washington debut in 2013, the Huskies suddenly become an intriguing blend of young and old. Should C.J. Wilcox forgo the temptations of the NBA and return for his senior campaign, the Dawgs will boast a trio of fifth-year players who could lead them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons.
Beyond the aforementioned additions, Washington brings in a freshman recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Nigel Williams-Goss, a 6-3 point guard from Happy Valley, Oregon. Darin Johnson, a 6-4 shooting guard from Sacramento, and Jahmel Taylor, a 5-11 point guard from Los Angeles, round out the crop of first-year players. Williams-Goss, especially, should have an instant impact, offloading some of the playmaking duties from returning redshirt sophomore Andrew Andrews, and likely assuming a fair share of the scoring duties, as well.
It will be interesting to see how the new players blend with the returning roster. With a marked improvement in talent, at least on paper, it will be up to Coach Romar and staff to mold personalities and ensure a comfortable working environment for all involved. Should this team play up to its potential, and more importantly play together, a return to the Big Dance and national relevance isn’t out of the question at all.
You seemed so confident about the Sonics next season. Are you still? -via @bryanwhite05
For months, I’ve operated under the assumption that the Sonics will be playing in Seattle in 2013. All of Kevin Johnson’s pomp and circumstance, all of the NBA’s rhetoric, and all the back-and-forth between the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento can’t change my opinion: I’m convinced the Kings are destined to become Seattle’s team before year’s end.
Sure, I’ve followed the saga on sports radio, in the news, on Twitter, etc., but I’m not letting the roller coaster ride sway me. I’d rather stay positive, trust the businessmen (and the lawyers) involved, and look towards that light at the end of the tunnel. I’m absolutely confident.
Regardless of how you may feel, however, we should have a better idea of where things are headed within the next eight days. Assuming everything goes according to schedule, we’ll know by April 20 whether we will or will not have an NBA team in the Emerald City next season.
Will Saved By the Bell ever do any 20- or 30-year high school reunion specials? -via @HuskyThor
This is one of those things that’s near and dear to my heart. Saved By the Bell is without a doubt one of my favorite sitcoms of all-time, and in recent years the people behind the show have gone about teasing us with the prospect of a reunion special on more than one occasion. Problem is, there are two holdups: Lisa and Screech, or more accurately, the real-life actors who play them, Lark Voorhies and Dustin Diamond.
Voorhies has battled her own personal demons, a battle that has been documented in the press over the past year or so. It’s rumored that she may be bipolar and, as a result, has all but given up acting while she sorts out her personal life.
Diamond is the cast’s pariah, an abrasive figure who has fallen out with just about all of his former Bell-mates. Whether or not he’d be on board for a reunion wouldn’t so much be determined by his own desires as it would by his standing with those he’d be working with. If Screech can’t get along with everyone else, a reunion project probably can’t be green-lit. While spinoffs of the original show have done okay without Lisa’s character (Lisa did not appear in recurring fashion during The College Years), the role of Screech has graced every SBTB-related project to date.
It’s been two decades since Bayside High School’s most famous class received their diplomas. A 20-year reunion would be well-received by an entire generation that still watches SBTB reruns to this day. For now, though, we continue to wait.
What is the limit to what you would let fall in a beer while still chugging it? Given that a sports beer is ~$8, when is enough, enough? We saw [the beer catch] but what about an earpiece, etc? -via @johng365
First of all, if you haven’t seen Wednesday night’s beer catch, go, now. It’s pretty amazing. Definitely worth a few seconds of your time. Catching a baseball in one’s plastic pint cup has got to be a bucket list item for any self-respecting, beer-drinking baseball fan. Would any of us not be willing to sacrifice a cold one for a souvenir as coveted as a foul ball? I like to think we’d all give up our beers for that.
This raises that all-important question, however: Where is that line on stadium beer sacrifice? A debate for the ages, without a doubt.
For me, personally, the cost of a stadium beer pales in comparison to a moment of infamy. Catching just about anything worth YouTubing in my drink would be valuable. But I’m a media whore, so naturally a bit biased. And this all assumes that a camera is in place to capture the moment of (glory?) glory. For instance, if someone chucked an earpiece into my Coors Light and it wasn’t recorded, then I’d just be some poor sap who wasted $8 or $9 on a now-tainted beer. The thought of guzzling a drink that may contain a fair amount of ear wax turns my stomach, so that beer is bound for the garbage either way. I can happily live with it, though, if I’ve found my way to the pages of Deadspin as a result.
If we operate under the hypothetical of a camera-free world, the list of things I’d let fall into my beer dramatically shortens. A baseball is still a definite yes, and likely rises to the top of the list when it comes to exciting beer finds. Anyone who’s ever taken a baseball home from the ballpark understands the excitement associated with that moment. Including me:
After the prospect of a foul ball gracing your beverage, the awesome sports-related paraphernalia you could drop into an already-full pint glass are few and far between. A hockey puck? Totally cool. A golf ball? Absolutely. A tennis ball? Sure. But then what?
A player’s mouthpiece? Eh, probably not worth it.
A batting glove? Maybe.
A wad of Bazooka chewed by your favorite player? Some might go for it, but not me.
A shooting sleeve? No.
Really, outside of a baseball, there aren’t many coveted stadium items that would warrant losing a beer over. If you want to open the book up to include the likes of a World Series ring or a $100 bill then yes, we can absolutely talk about ditching that ale you’ve been chugging. Beyond that? Well, let’s just be thankful for cameras and the world of social media. Because really, those fleeting seconds of fame and relevance are all that make an $8 waste of money okay.
Thanks to everyone for contributing their questions to this edition of the Twitterbag. Stay tuned via Twitter for our next Twitterbag request.
Filed under: Twitterbag
After surgeries to repair injuries, both Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley are ready to play in the Seattle Mariners 2013 season. Both men had their injuries cleaned up and they are well on the way to full recovery.
Ryan suffered from an elbow injury, impairing his ability to throw the ball. Bone spurs, particularly painful growths on bone, can cause pain and excess wear and tear when it rubs against other bones. For Ryan, this meant he didn’t perform as well as he was capable of last season. Post-surgery on his right arm to remove the spurs, he’s throwing 120 feet now, and he’s reporting that he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to perform well in Spring Training – something he had great difficulty with in the 2012 Spring Training season. In the past, Ryan was considered one of the best fielding shortstops in the League. It will be great to see him back on his feet again.
Ackley had surgery performed on his left ankle – also to remove bone spurs he has been struggling with since his college days. After a sad season – most likely attributed to the pain that Ackley was feeling as a result of the spurs – it will be interesting to see what he can do for the Mariners now that he’s had the ankle repaired. Considering the second baseman is only 24, in principal, he still has a lot of good athleticism left that he should be able to take out on the baseball field.
Let’s wish the two guys a great season with improved post-surgery stats.
Today, outfielder Trayvon Robinson was sent to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for utility infielder, Robert Andino.
This was a good move for the team. Robinson was one of many outfielders competing for a spot on the major league roster, and wasn’t going to become a difference maker in Seattle. There was a strong chance that he wouldn’t have made the 25-man roster out of spring training next year and would have ended up going through waivers where another team would have picked up him anyways. Seattle has a plethora of outfielders such as Carp, Thames, and Peguero that can fill the gap left by Trayvon.
The young outfielder was certainly a pleasure to watch. Every day, we got to see him play hard baseball and his smile could light up a stadium. His fun personality and love for the game will be missed here in Seattle. I hope he finds success in his new home.
Robert Andino was a sensible pickup for the Mariners. With the release of Kawasaki, the organization needed a reliable utility infielder and Andino fits that mold. He has a solid glove and can bring a bit of speed to the bases. He also brings a much better bat than Kawasaki did. The new Mariner struggled last year, but he posted a respectable 1.8 WAR in 139 games in 2011 which was tenth in the American League at second base. That’s a pretty good return for a journeyman outfielder.
The interesting thing about this deal is its possible implications. Billy Butler has been a potential target for the Mariners, and one name that has been tossed around in a possible trade has been Dustin Ackley. The acquisition of Andino could mean that the Mariners are more available to move Ackley. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
If Ackley is traded, Andino could be a good guy to hold down the fort at second base until a prospect like Nick Franklin or Brad Miller is ready to step in.
Overall, this was a practical and necessary move for Seattle. The really fascinating thing about the trade is whether it will lead to bigger moves in the future.
For those who don’t know, I basically do what the title says. Talk about the player’s career to this point, as well as give my opinion on their future career. Keep in mind the future is just an opinion, but I will try to use what I have seen from the player and what the stats say to support what I say.
Dustin Ackley was drafted 2nd overall in 2009 by the Seattle Mariners. He was primarily an outfielder in college, but was moved to first base after having Tommy John surgery the year before. He was drafted as an outfielder, then quickly moved to second base due to an opening at that spot in the organization. The move garnered some mixed reviews, but reports were that he had picked up the position quickly, which we have found to be true. It was a brilliant move by the organization in recognizing there was a hole in the organization, and finding someone who’s bat and natural abilities fit the position well.
Dustin played pretty well overall throughout his minor league career. In 2010 he split time between AA and AA, posting a combined .351 wOBA and 107 wRC+ in 134 games. He also did a great job limiting his strikeouts and maximizing his walks with a 13.5 K% and 12.5 BB% for the year.
He expanded on a solid debut season by putting up an astouding .404 wOBA and 130 wRC+ en route to a June call up. He continued to hit well in his first taste of the bigs, posting a .337 wOBA and 117 wRC+ in the first 90 games of his big league career. His K rate was a little too high for my liking at 21%, but other than that it was a solid season.
As for last year, most of us know it was a different story. His wOBA and wRC+ dropped to .274 and 75 respectively. He struggled the whole year, and a lot of people lost hope. Despite what you may think, he struck out less than he did in his rookie year (18.6%). He just wasn’t making solid contact, and had a pretty low BABIP.
He was very good defensively though, and got some recognition in the Gold Glove voting. The position change turned out to be a very good move, and I think he should stay at 2nd base.
Ackley has been underwhelming to this point to say the least. His 2012 campaign was a little concerning, and I expected more. But I do think he can and will turn it around.
He needs to get back to his game, which is gap hitting, limiting strikeouts, and maximizing walks. Safeco didn’t have as extreme of an effect on him as it did others, but he was still better on the road than at home. I’m not sure how much the fence changes will help him though, as he isn’t a power guy, and a bigger outfield gives him more gaps to aim for. I don’t think it will hurt him either though.
I am confident that he can get back to that, and I still think he will be a solid player, but maybe not quite as good as we thought and hoped for.
Overall, I haven’t lost much hope for Dustin Ackley despite the down year. He has hit wherever he has gone, and I have no reason to doubt that he will continue to do so. I am not expecting quite as much as I was before, which was a perennial .300/.360/.420 type guy. He could very well still get the that point, if he makes some changes.
I think he needs to close up his stance a little so he can reach the outside pitch more consistently. Although the numbers say his outside contact numbers were about the same as they were in 2011, it seemed like that’s where he struggled. Pitchers picked up on that, and were going up and away frequently to get him to either watch it go (which he does too much) or swing and miss.
There is a point where your eye is too good, and Ackley might be there. He is a talented hitter, and needs to just let it loose sometimes. Kyle Seager said Dustin hasn’t changed his stance since they kids, but it may be time he does so. Just close it up a little, and be a little less patient. Welcome walks, but don’t look for them.
If he does this, I think he will become a very good hitter, maybe as soon as next year. He is just too talented to stay where he was last year. I envision a .275/.345/.400 (.335 wOBA, 115 wRC+) line next year, very similar to that of his rookie year. From there, I expect further improvement, and think he will see a .285/.350/.415 (.345 wOBA, 125 wRC+) guy for years to come. That, combined with his above average speed and defense at 2nd base should make for a very valuable player.
Shortstop Gold Glove winner: J.J. Hardy
Yesterday, Matthias ruminated on the defensive value of Ryan and his two AL competitors, Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy and Texas’s Elvis Andrus. Despite leading the league in UZR and DRS, Brendan’s cold bat may have swayed voters towards the hot-hitting Hardy instead.
Second base Gold Glove winner: Robinson Cano
Flanked by Ackley and Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, Cano grabbed his second career Gold Glove award. Defensively, he came second in UZR (9.7 to Pedroia’s 10.0) and first in DRS (15), batting .313/.379/.550 to boot.
While neither Mariner was an expected favorite among voters, their nominations may be a sign that voters are placing greater emphasis on defensive accomplishments in spite of sub-par offensive performances. A complete list of Gold Glove winners can be found here.
As per the Mariners official twitter account….
Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley are in the running for gold glove honors. The fact that Derek Jeter won the award last season for AL shortstops is one of many events that has diluted the value of the award to sabermetricians. But if Ryan wins this season, it will likely garner unanimous support from both baseball writers and stat nerds alike. Not only has he been spectacular this season with the glove, he’s been spectacular his whole career, and deserves to start winning some hardware.
Fangraphs’ UZR puts Ryan three full runs ahead of his next-best competition, J.J. Hardy, of the surprising Orioles. In other words, UZR suggests that Ryan has saved the Mariners more runs that Hardy has saved the Birds. DRS, another defensive system measuring runs saved, ranks Ryan nine runs ahead of second-place Hardy. These defensive systems attempt to measure more than just errors, and one category specifically includes double plays. Brendan Ryan’s double play efficiency alone is two runs better than the competition, which segues nicely to his up-the-middle infield mate, Dustin Ackley.
Ackley is definitely in the Gold Glove conversation if we use UZR and DRS as our starting points. UZR ranks Ackley third, about three runs behind the leader, Dustin Pedroia, while DRS has both of them trailing Robinson Cano by four runs. As expected, Ackley’s ability to turn the double play earned him extra runs saved, but it wasn’t quite enough to make up for other relative shortcomings.
The stats support the fact that Ackley is an above average second baseman defensively, but not necessarily the best. Even if we use two full years of data, and pro-rate for Ackley’s half-season in 2011, there are three players outperforming him over that time by UZR’s standards. And Pedroia beats him out in DRS as well.
I’m not saying this is how the voting is going to go, but UZR and DRS are currently the best, publicly available statistics for measuring defensive value. Ryan deserves the shortstop’s Gold Glove, hands down, but Boston’s Pedroia probably deserves it among AL second basemen. However, we as Mariners fans can appreciate that fact that a guy originally thought to be a league-average second basemen at best is now legitimately in the discussion for the Gold Glove.
Dustin Ackley is my favorite player. I’ve always been a fan of pure hitters with sweet swings, and that’s what Ackley is. Or at least, what he was supposed to be.
After a solid rookie year in which he had a .348 OBP, .340 wOBA and 119 wRC+, he has been horrible this year at the plate. He has posted just a .299 OBP and 81 wRC+ in his sophomore season. 81 wRC+. That means he has been 29% worse at creating runs than the average player. Does that sound like a future star worthy of the #2 overall pick? To me it doesn’t.
So far in his MLB career, strikeouts have been a huge problem for Dustin. He has struck out 18.4% of the time this year, which despite what you may think, is less than his rookie year, when his K% was 21%. That’s not what you want to see from your leadoff hitter, or any hitter really. Strikeouts kill innings as quick as anything.
Ackley has been watching too many pitches go by. His swing% this year is 38.7%, about 8% less than average. That’s not to say we want him to swing at everything, but you would like to see him be a little more aggressive at the plate. His lack of swinging is what is causing the constant K’s, as his contact rate is 85.6%, about 4-5% higher than average. When the dude swings, he puts it in play.
Despite people frequently saying that he needs to close his stance and quit stepping in the bucket, his outsite-contact rate is at 74.4%, about 6% higher than average. The reason it seems like he misses outside pitches so much is because they throw so many too him. They have found out a weakness and will exploit it. His inside-contact rate is at 90.7% though, so closing up the stance may bring some pitches closer to him, and give him a better shot to hit it.
All that being said, what is Dustin Ackley’s future?
I think he will vastly improve, but to do so, something needs to change. I have noted changes in almost every other player’s stance/approach over the year, but not with Ackley. According to Seager, his stance has been the same since they were kids. Well, I think it’s time to change it. I don’t know how or what, but something isn’t working.
Ackley was pegged by most as a future perennial .300 hitter, and he certainly had, and still has the talent to do so. However, I’m not sure he will become that player anymore. I think he will get close to, and maybe even break .300 at some point, but it won’t be a yearly thing like I/we hoped for. I see him as a .280/.350, 13 HR guy on average, with a few spikes and drops here and there. Certainly not bad, and we would use that at the top of the lineup, but it’s not quite what you want from a #2 overall pick.
The next position I will analyze for the future is second base. While it seems like Ackley is the obvious second baseman of the future, it is important to look at other second base options in case Ackley’s slump becomes permanent or he is moved to first base or the outfield.
Some of the organization’s second basemen include Munenori Kawasaki, Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Christopher Taylor, and Timothy Lopes.
Kawasaki does not have a place in Seattle’s future other than that of dugout dance and possible Mariner Moose. On the other hand, Seager has certainly proved that he belongs in the starting lineup every day, so he would be a good option to replace Ackley should he be needed there.
As for prospects, Franklin should be knocking on the door of the MLB within the next year. While normally a shortstop, he could find himself at second or third base depending on how he matures defensively and how the Mariners decide to address Brendan Ryan. Considering the hype surrounding Franklin and the offensive up-side he has demonstrated, he needs to get his shot in the MLB. It will simply come down to which infield position Wedge decides to play him at.
Brad Miller is another option, and he is a player that I am very fascinated by. Miller and Franklin have taken very different routes to get to similar spots. Unlike Franklin who was drafted out of high school, Miller played at Clemson before becoming a second round pick in the 2011 draft. As a result, this is Miller’s first full year in professional baseball while this is Franklin’s third year despite the fact that Miller is a year older than his counterpart. Regardless, Miller has dominated minor league pitching during his stints in class A Clinton, class high A High Desert, and class AA Jackson.
Here is a comparison between Franklin and Miller during their time in AA Jackson in 2012.
It would also be helpful to point out that Miller had an AB/HR rate of 36.75 during his stint while Franklin’s was 51.25.
I’m not necessarily saying that Miller is the same level of prospect that Franklin is, but there are certainly similarities in their plate production. Don’t rule out Miller just because he’s not the top shortstop in the farm system, because he might just force himself into the Major leagues weather that means he plays somewhere in the middle infield or he gets traded.
If you are skeptical of Miller, just remember Kyle Seager’s ride to the majors. He started the 2011 season in AA as an afterthought due to Alex Liddi’s prospect status. Seager earned a AAA call-up after a few months and proceeded to hit .387 and post a 1.029 OPS in his 24 game stint in Tacoma before being sent to Seattle in mid- July. The rest is history. To summarize this analogy: Teams like Seattle can’t afford to ignore big time minor league production so don’t sleep on Brad Miller.
Chris Taylor and Timothy Lopes, who were the fifth and sixth round picks in this draft respectively, are both guys who have progressed quickly in their first year of professional baseball. In Class Low A Everett, Taylor posted at .430 OBP over a 37 game span and walked more than he struck out before being moved up to Class A Clinton. There he hit .304 in 53 plate appearances.
Lopes, who was drafted out of high school, began in rookie ball, shined, and earned the distinction of Seattle’s 17th best prospect by MLB.com. He spent the last couple of games in High A High Desert.
Taylor is 22 and Lopes is 18, so Taylor won’t have nearly the leash that Lopes does, but both players have quite a ways to go before they are knocking on the MLB door, but they are names to remember.
There is a pretty good chance that Ackley adjust to the pitching and break his sophomore slump, and none of these guys will ever be asked to play second base in Seattle. That’s what I’m hoping for.
The all star break is always a good time to stop and evaluate a season. It’s easy to just see at the 36-51 record and call it a bad season, but let’s look at the specific goods and bads from the season thus far. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many goods, so I will start with them.
Felix (most of the time)
Other than June, when he posted a 4.45 ERA, Felix has been phenomenal. Our only all star has an ERA of 2.67. Sure, his fastball hasn’t lit up radar guns like he used to, but Felix is still a great pitcher with electric stuff. I wouldn’t worry about our king.
Wells and Saunders
Going into the season, most people didn’t want to give Michael Saunders a chance, but a Franklin Gutierrez injury opened up a spot for Saunders, and he has done well. His 20.9 line drive rate has far exceeded previous seasons, and his .320 BABIP has been stellar as well. Saunders has also tacked on eight homeruns and thirteen stolen bases.
Wells started off slow, but since heating up in July, he has hit .340 with three homeruns in 20 games. He has also been one of the few guys who have hit better at home than on the road. Both Saunders and Wells have performed beyond expectations, and will hopefully continue to do so in the second half of the year.
Justin Smoak’s month of May
Smoak’s year has been very discouraging, but the month of May was bright. In that month, he hit .255 with six homeruns and eighteen rbis. A year at this pace would amount to 36 long balls and 108 runs batted in. May was the only month that I felt we were seeing what Smoak is actually capable of. I know the other two months of the season for Smoak was abysmal, but at least we have seen a glimpse of Smoak’s capability.
Jaso came over from Tampa in return for a AAA reliever in Josh Lueke, but he has turned out to be much better than a seventh reliever. He has provided a solid bat off the bench and also a good option behind the dish. He is hitting .267 in 135 at bats, has drove in 21 runs, and has nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Considering what the M’s gave up for Jaso, he has been a quite pleasant surprise.
The struggles of Brandon League forced Tom Wilhelmson into the closer role where he has excelled. In 39 appearences, the former bartender has earned a 2.44 ERA, seven saves, and seven holds. His curveball has also provided some comical reactions from batters.
Furbush and Leutge
Furbush didn’t start on the major league roster, but when the lefty got his chance, he turned into a reliable option in the bullpen. In 36.2 innings of work, the southpaw has posted a 2.21 ERA, .148 opponent average and, more impressively, a .818 WHIP. Unlike most Mariner pitchers who excel at home and struggle on the road, batters are hitting just .114 off of Furbush in visiting ballparks.
Luetge’s role in the bullpen this year has been very specific, and he has become an excellent lefty specialist. Left-handed batters are hitting just .140 off of Luetge this season. 52 lefty batters have stepped into the box against Luetge, and only six batters have gotten hits off of him, none of which were extra-base hits, while sixteen have struck out.
The Big 3
The trio of young prospects have had a great first half of the year, and Hultzen and Walker were both invited to the MLB Futures game where they each made appearances. In AA, the three have posted a 16-10 record and ERAs of 1.19, 4.50, and 3.46. They each have also struck out an average of more than one batter per inning. Hultzen has been the only arm to be promoted to AAA Tacoma, but the other two aren’t far behind.
Time to take a look at the countless bads of this season.
It didn’t matter if Ichiro was batting third or first, he hardly hit at all. His .288 OBP was miserable and he didn’t show any of the power that Wedge had hoped to see in the middle of the order. There is nothing more to say than that Ichiro’s 2012 campaign has been a major disappointment.
As discussed earlier, Justin Smoak had a phenomenal month of May in which he showed the ability that Jack Z thought he was getting in the Cliff Lee deal. However, the other two months of the year have been discouraging. In March, April, and May, Smoak has batted a mere .171 with 5 long balls and 14 rbis. That’s production deserving of a demotion to AAA. If the Smoakamotive doesn’t figure out his swing in the second half of the season, he will quickly find himself out of a spot in the future of the organization.
Beavan and Noesi
2012 is the first full season for each of these two young pitchers. They each earned spots in the starting rotation out of spring training, but they have each had horrible first halves and have been sent back to AAA. Beavan’s ERA was 5.92 until he was demoted to Tacoma. He also had an average of 1.73 homeruns per game which is a shocking number considering how many games he pitched in Safeco Field.
Noesi’s record this year is 2-11. He has lost eleven games in seventeen starts. While this can be blamed on Seattle’s inadequate offense, Noesi has still had a miserable season. His ERA is fifth to worst in baseball, his FIP is worst, xFIP third to worst, and HR/9 the worst as well. Just consider that; a pitcher who has the luxury of throwing in Safeco Field has given up homeruns more consistently than any other pitcher in baseball. THAT’S EMBARRASSING. That’s Hector Noesi.
Ackley set high expectations for himself hitting .273 in his rookie season, but his sophomore campaign has been drastically worse. His average has dropped 40 points, his OBP 37 points, and his slugging percentage has dropped 92 points. Even Ackley’s line drive rate has also fallen a bit. Unlike Smoak, Ackley has plenty of time to become a good hitter, but this year has certainly been a major setback in the course of his career.
The injury bug has been everywhere in the Mariner’s locker room. It started in the spring training with Franklin Gutierez and continued in the opening series when Mike Carp went down. Even the young players like Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez have been struck by injuries. Kevin Millwood was pulled from a game in which he was throwing a no-hitter due to a muscle strain.
Mike Carp (when healthy)
Carp has only been able to play in 32 games because of injuries, but when he has played, he has been horrible. His average is just .157, he has struck out in over a quarter of his at bats, and his LD% is 15.5%. The only good thing about Carp’s season at the plate has been his 14.3% walk rate which has escalated his OBP to just two points below Ichiro’s.
In 2011, League was an all-star closer. In 2012, he has been a save blowing machine. He has blown six saves and has five losses in 39 appearances. Not only has League lost several games for the Mariners, but he has erased a once great trade value.
Here are just a few of the highs and lows of the first half of the season. I may have forced a few of the goods and ignored many of the bads, but sometimes you have to do that as a Mariner fan. Let’s hope we have more good things to talk about when the season ends.
Tags: Blake Beavan, Brandon League, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Danny Hultzen, dustin ackley, featured, Felix Hernandez, Franklin Gutierez, Hector Noesi, Ichiro, james paxton, John Jaso, justin smoak, kevin millwood, Lucas Luetge, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, Popular, taijuan walker, Tom Wilhelmson
It’s no secret that the Mariners roster has been built upon a extremely young core.
This core is the foundation of the Mariners future, and while the season may not be cause for excitement, watching our young core grow is plenty of reason to tune … [visit site to read more]
It’s no secret that the Mariners roster has been built upon a extremely young core.
This core is the foundation of the Mariners future, and while the season may not be cause for excitement, watching our young core grow is plenty of reason to tune … [visit site to read more]
It has only been less than two weeks since Eric Wedge finally gave up on Chone Figgins. The entire city of Seattle breathed a sigh of relief knowing that they would no longer have to watch him and his sub-Mendoza line batting average every night. … [visit site to read more]