By the numbers: Wedge's remarks on Ackley just don't add up

Commentary: Greg Jayne

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

Well, I'm glad we cleared that up.

Dustin Ackley, the once and former hope of the Seattle Mariners, has been demoted to Triple-A. And the problem, we know now, is . . . wait for it . . . mathematics.

Yes, mathematics. Numbers. Those pesky things that actually measure a player's performance.

Ackley was batting .205 with a .266 on-base percentage when he was sent down, and the reason for this, according to his manager, was that Ackley was being too selective at the plate and was worried too much about on-base percentage.

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

Ah, all this sabermetrics stuff -- baseball's new math. All these newfangled methods that tell us how important on-base percentage is.

Don't us media types know that a player such as Ackley shouldn't be bothered with things like, you know, trying to get on base?

Ugh! Math! How does it work again?

Never mind the fact that -- thanks to sabermetrics -- we know that on-base percentage is by far the most important offensive statistic. We know that OBP holds the strongest correlation to the actual number of runs that a team scores.

Goodness knows, we wouldn't want to get into Ackley's head with information like that.

Which brings us to the many, many ways in which Wedge's quote is an abject failure of managerial acumen:

• First of all, if Ackley is concerned about his on-base percentage, he's doing a lousy job of showing it. He's the deadbeat dad of OBP, the criminally negligent driver who leaves OBP in a roadside ditch.

Last year, Ackley's on-base percentage was .294. This year, his .266 mark ranks 157th out of 170 qualifiers in the major leagues.

If Ackley supposedly cares about getting on base, his OBP is about to sue him for non-support.

• Second of all, Ackley is being paid $1.5 million this year. If he is easily distracted by advice from outsiders, then he's probably a little overpaid. Like by about $1.499 million.

Isn't it more than a little absurd to suggest that a major leaguer's performance is affected by "people who haven't played since they were 9 years old"?

• And third of all, maybe the problem lies more with Ackley and Wedge than it does with people who analyze baseball statistics. I'm just guessing here. Then again, unlike Wedge, I'm not paid $1.9 million a year to figure these things out.

Which, by the way, also is money not well spent. Wedge took over the Mariners in 2011, and since then they have wandered through an offensive desert of historic scope. Since the start of the 2011 season, Seattle has scored 165 fewer runs than any other team in the American League.

Take, for example, Justin Smoak. By the middle of this week, the Mariners' first baseman was on pace to finish this season with 558 plate appearances and 25 RBI. No first baseman in the history of the game -- well, unless you count Joe Agler of the 1914 Buffalo Buffeds from the Federal League -- has had 550 plate appearances with as few as 25 RBI in a season.

But you can ignore that. It's just math.

Instead, you can wonder how the Mariners have taken allegedly solid prospects such as Ackley, Smoak, and Jesus Montero and rendered them impotent at the plate. For the past several years, Seattle's offense has been a failure at every level, from roster building to player development.

And you don't need to play the game to understand that.

Greg Jayne actually played baseball until he was 18, although not very well. If you have questions or comments for By the Numbers, you can reach him at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. Follow him on Twitter:@col_gjayne