by Dave De Wit
Dustin Ackley and Alex Gordon have a lot in common. They were both born in February. They’re both left-handed hitters who throw right-handed. They were both college super stars. They were both selected with the 2nd overall pick of the MLB draft. Both saw their first Major League action as 23-year olds and both struggled during their first few years in the Majors.
When you dig into their stats they have even more in common, particularly when comparing Ackley to Gordon before Gordon’s breakout season in 2011. Below are their stats averaged out over a 162 game season.
- Gordon (’07-’10): 78 runs, 18 HR, 64 RBI, 12 SB, .244 AVG
- Ackley (’11-’12): 83 runs, 13 HR, 58 RBI, 13 SB, .243 AVG
Even their underlying numbers look the same:
- Gordon (’07-’10): 22.1% K rate, 9.9% BB rate, 20.1% LD rate, .294 BABIP
- Ackley (’11-’12): 19.4% K rate, 9.5% BB rate, 20.4% LD rate, .290 BABIP
Eerie, isn’t it? They were basically the same player, other than Gordon’s extra pop and a slight difference in runs and RBI because of where they hit in the batting order.
From a fantasy perspective, those are respectable stat lines outside of the terrible .240 batting averages. That kind of power/speed combination would be very valuable if accompanied with a higher average, as Gordon has shown in the past two seasons. However, Ackley and the pre-breakout Gordon struggled with their average and, interestingly enough, had the same problem: they couldn’t drive the ball the other way.
From ’07-’10, Gordon had a .467 slugging percentage on balls hit to the opposite field compared to a .554 SLG to the rest of the field. In his career, Ackley has slugged just .352 when going the other way and slugged .480 on balls that were pulled or hit up the middle. As a result, both hitters were getting the vast majority of pitches thrown to them on the outside part of the plate. Pitchers were just daring them to go the other way with the ball.
Gordon was able to correct his impotency to the opposite field over the past two years, raising his slugging to .644 when going the other way, which was actually higher than his slugging percentage to the rest of the field. If Ackley can make a similar adjustment, he would see a similar spike in his batting average—maybe not to the .300 level that Gordon has seen, since Ackley doesn’t have that kind of power, but certainly to a respectable .280-.290 range.
Obviously noticing that a change is needed is much easier than fixing the problem, but, considering he has a career slugging percentage of .348 on pitches in the outside part of the strike zone, you have to think that the Mariners are scrambling to plug this hole in Ackley’s game.
Whether or not you draft Dustin Ackley, take the time to watch a handful of Mariners’ games early in the season and see if he is driving the ball to the opposite field. If he’s hitting balls the other way with authority, try to go get him while his price is cheap in case the change is permanent. However, if he’s hitting weak grounders or trying to pull balls that are thrown outside, stay away.
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Make sure to check out all of our 2013 projections:
- Altuve, Jose
- Alvarez, Pedro
- Bruce, Jay
- Butler, Billy
- Gomez, Carlos
- Gonzalez, Gio
- Jennings, Desmond
- Lester, Jon
- McCutchen, Andrew
- Middlebrooks, Will
- Miley, Wade
- Perez, Salvador
- Teixeira, Mark