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Sabermetrics: The Destroyer of Dustin Ackley

Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge made a comment that incensed a portion of the sabermetric community and it began a whirlwind of angry comments, insults, and mocking towards him that I don't believe should have ever taken place. Whether you agree with what he said or not, it's very possible he's right when you really take a look at what he was saying.


If you haven’t heard about it by now then you probably haven’t been paying much attention to baseball recently. What I’m referring to is a statement made by Seattle Mariners' manager Eric Wedge that caused an immediate uproar by a portion of the sabermetric community and minds everywhere were blown as a result of the pure insight and knowledge bandied about on Twitter and message boards all across the world.

The reason behind all of this is because of Wedge's words in response to second baseman Dustin Ackley being demoted to Triple-A:

It's the new generation. It's all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean? People who haven't played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids' heads.

We can take this quote for what it’s worth -- which is a big league manager saying what is wrong with a former top prospect while also taking a potshot at the sabermetric community. Or we could take this quote as Wedge being an imbecile and not knowing what he’s talking about because of <insert random intelligently worded insult here>.

One such person that was able to look beyond the rhetoric and poorly worded quote from Wedge is Ian Miller, who had this to say in response to Wedge on Baseball Prospectus:

The point is not difficult to parse if you can look past the incendiary language in which it was couched: Dustin Ackley ain’t right at the plate, and the problem is mental. Wedge expressed this in maybe the worst way possible, but that doesn’t make him wrong, necessarily.

Wedge has managed Ackley for the equivalent of nearly two seasons, plus two spring trainings. That’s a lot of time to get to know a guy. Unless you’re related by blood or marriage to Dustin Ackley, Eric Wedge probably knows him better than you do. Ackley is probably a better hitter than his .205 AVG would indicate (although we can argue how much better than that he actually is). And maybe advanced statistics are actually making Ackley worse.

It’s not difficult to imagine that some players simply can’t get out of their own heads and instead of focusing on the task at hand -- which for a hitter would be identifying the situation he’s coming up to the plate in, trying to recognize the pitch coming his way, and then making contact with that pitch.

There is this great fascination with being more selective at the plate, taking walks or extra pitches, and getting on base in that manner. What happens when a hitter becomes too concerned with pitch selectivity though? Well, you get Dustin Ackley. He’s become so selective at the plate that he’s failing miserably and he’s very well likely lost confidence in his ability to hit the ball.

The other thing I would like to touch on is the fact that some are still under the impression that there is some great war being fought between major league organizations and the sabermetric community. I don’t believe that to be the case at all and thoughts such as that couldn’t be further from reality. We won. The sabermetric community won because we now have sabermetrics and "numbers" folks in front offices everywhere now.

There is no battle to be fought in that area any longer because it’s already been fought and it’s already been won. Where the fight is at currently, and again this is my opinion, is with a portion of the mainstream media because certain members of the media take the easy route to filling up a column with words by questioning sabermetrics. Some of those questions being asked are legitimate and others asked are silly, and should be taken as that.

Instead of losing our minds over a comment that a manager made, and the cheap shot he took at our work in the process, let’s look beyond that and actually analyze what he said which is that Ackley is using advanced metrics to his detriment at the moment. It’s a mental issue and until he can figure it out he just won’t be a very good major league hitter.

You can follow me on Twitter @BSLLanceRinker, find out more about me by reading my BtBS bio, and even listen to my weekly podcast 'Bird Talk' that I host and produce -- we talk about the Baltimore Orioles.