The big news from last night is that Dustin Ackley got called up from Tacoma. The second overall pick in the 2009 draft needs to do one thing: hit the ball. You would think this would be a pretty easy task given that he is a baseball player, but the rest of the 2011 Mariners have shown that being a baseball player doesn’t mean you can hit the ball. Look at Chone Figgins. He can’t hit or field the ball and doesn’t have the speed he once had. Yet, he’s still a baseball player. Hell, he’s a baseball player making $9 million this year. And next year. But I digress. This isn’t about Figgins, it’s about Ackley and how the Mariners just need him to hit the ball.
See, as David Cameron (@d_a_cameron) pointed out earlier today on Twitter, the Mariners are one of the best pitching teams in the league. They rank first in the AL in walks per nine innings, third in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings and second in the AL in home runs allowed per nine innings. Oh, and they also lead the AL in FIP. By a lot. Thankfully, the Mariners don’t need Ackley to pitch. Which is a good thing. Because he’s not a pitcher. They don’t need him to be the opposite of Rick Ankiel.
They don’t even need Ackley to be a good fielder, just competent enough to not lose a ball game. According to a recent post on Lookout Landing, the Mariners, defensively, are the “5th best in the league with a +19.8 run rating.” Fifth best! And that’s with Figgins playing almost every day!
The Mariners just need Ackley to hit the ball and get on base. This hasn’t been easy for the 2011 Mariners. They are the third worst in the AL in batting average, second worst in home runs per nine innings, worst in walks per nine, and are third worst in strikeouts per nine. It’s bad. Yet, because of pitching and defense, the team is still hovering around .500 and teasing their fans with hopes of the playoffs this year. They need Ackley’s hitting to get them there.
It’s a lot of responsibility for a rookie. Of the dozens of rookies that get called up each year, every one of them comes with the promise of greatness. Only a couple can actually follow through. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that Ackley will fail. But being the optimist that I am, I don’t think he will. He’s been really good this year in Triple-A. He’s batting .300 with a .418 OBP with nine home runs and seven stolen bases. His walks are way up this year, while his strikeouts are slightly down. Don’t expect him to be the best hitter on the team right away, especially since he gets to face Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in two of his first three games. But Ackley is legit. And really, the Mariners just need him to hit better than Figgins. Which shouldn’t be hard.