I don’t want to talk about what happened tonight to the Mariners. They lost 15-3, with Felix giving up 5 runs in the second and the bullpen giving up 8 runs in the eighth. That hurt in so many different ways I am taking some forget-me-nows, made famous in Arrested Development.
But over the last two weeks of agonizing Mariners baseball, something good has slowly been happening for someone who needs to step it up offensively for a team that invested so much in him being a prodigious hitter in Major League Baseball.
Is there hope for the once and time again hopeless Dustin Ackley?
Since August 5th, Ackley has played in 9 games for the Mariners. Over that span he has raised his average from .213 to .235 on the year. He has gone 13-for-32 over this stretch, with 3 extra base hits and even a stolen base to his name (only the second of the year for him).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Ackley is back, or that Ackley is now a surefire .300 hitter in the majors all of a sudden. What I am saying though, is that he is starting to spray the ball all over the field like he had been doing in AAA Tacoma when he was sent down, and like he did throughout his collegiate career.
The Mariners desperately need two things going into the future beyond this season: a guy who can get on base and run hard and steal bases and leg out doubles; and also a guy who can play center field. Can Ackley be that guy? I sure hope he can, though the Mariners cannot be too reliant on that seeing Ackley’s current Major League track record.
But if Ackley could become an average to above-average centerfielder, he could– in theory– provide the Mariners with their own, less-good, version of Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist. The list of positions Ackley has played for the Mariners? First Base, Second Base, Center Field, Left Field, and Designated Hitter. If Ack can stick in center and provide that positional flexibility with so many youngsters coming into the fray, that could do wonders for this Mariners organization.
What can we realistically expect from Ackley for the rest of the season, though? My hope is that he finishes the year with a batting average above .260. If he can do that, he can make a legitimate case for being the Mariners starting centerfielder in 2014. But that will be wholly contingent on his offensive progress, where his defensive mechanics will be honed and improved during the offseason.
For now though, look tepidly yet optimistically at Dustin Ackley. Maybe he is finally, laboringly, starting to turn the corner. Or maybe all of those untrained routes to fly balls in centerfield are blurring our vision. Regardless, look for Ackley to continue improving through the end of September and making a case for his candidacy as the Mariners centerfielder of the future.