Fear the beard. No, not Brian Wilson‘s; Dustin Att-Ackley’s beard. Since his recall from the minors and really since the All-Star break, Dustin Ackley has been a force for good with the Mariners. And we haven’t been able to really say that since 2011 when he made his debut.
Today, in the midst of a drubbing by the Cardinals in the rubber match of the series, Dustin Ackley was batting leadoff and playing second base. Back to his roots I guess you could say.
First let’s look at Ackley’s breakdown by position this season. He has played in 115 games this season, and his playing time breakdown is as follows: DH (1), PR (2), 1B (4),PH (6), LF (10), CF (43), 2B (49). Of course, most of the time at second came before he was sent down, and most of the time in centerfield came after his return. But with the debilitating offensive collapse of Nick Franklin in recent weeks, Ackley has been playing second more and more.
The Mariners have shown confidence in him since his return. But more importantly, Ackley has visibly shown confidence in himself. Sure, he still looks as pensive as ever when at the plate, but there is a certain kind of intensity- maybe anger- that is visible in his eyes while he stands waiting for the pitch.
He has also learned from past errors. All of last season and the first half of this season it seemed like only two things ever happened when Ackley was batting: 1) he grounded out softly to second base; 2) he would strike out looking at a pitch low and away. But now it’s different… he is walking, he is SWINGING (thank God) at those pitches low and away and fouling them off. He is hitting with some power, with some pop, with some desire to be better than the day before.
Yes, as of today, Ackley is only batting .256 on the season. But his OBP and Slugging are drifting upwards, and if you threw out the first half of the season Ackley would be batting well over .280. And if he can hit .280 for an entire season, he deserves to start for the Seattle Mariners.
What’s also cool, in regards to his chameleon-like ability to switch positions, is that Ackley is starting to turn into a Ben Zobrist type player. Versatile, aggressive, and an offensive workhorse (although with less pop). If he could be even 80% of what Zobrist has been for the Rays in recent years, Ackley will be an asset who was worth a first round draft pick.
Can he do it? I think he can. It’s not a fluke that he is better offensively now; he is really starting to figure out where he is at the plate and he is aware of his abilities.
He is getting better and better in centerfield, and in the outfield in general. So this offseason will be key to build up that arm strength. And also to continue improving his hitting. And, most importantly, to keep growing that beard. Man, is that thing awesome or what?
If he can continue trending upwards, and young Abraham Almonte can keep showing his stuff, the Mariners look alright for next season. They still need to sign a power outfield bat though… or at least a gamer. Guys like James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are flexing their muscles too.
Get the King healthy, keep Ackley rolling, and who really knows what could happen in 2014.
Regardless, though, that beard is just too good to be true.