The second half of Dustin Ackley’s 2014 season has borne one of the more remarkable individual turnarounds in recent memory. Ackley, who spent the previous two-and-a-half years playing miserable baseball, emerged exactly two months ago finally looking like the No. 2 overall draft selection the Mariners made him in 2009.
In and of themselves, Ackley’s stats tell a compelling story. In the first half of 2014, the 26-year-old posted a middling .225/.282/.335/.617 slash line, with just four home runs and 29 RBI. Coming out of the All-Star Break, those numbers seemingly transformed overnight.
Since July 18th, Ackley’s numbers are more Stefan Urquelle than Steve Urkel. Along with an eye-opening .287/.322/.489/.811 slash line, the Mariners’ starting left fielder has cracked seven dingers and driven in 33 runs. Those statistics are worthy of individual callouts, so bear with me for a moment.
The batting average has jumped a whopping 62 points.
The on-base percentage has increased by 40 points.
The slugging percentage has risen by 154 points.
And the on-base-plus-slugging percentage? A mind-blowing 194-point leap, lifting Ackley from the depths of replacement-level fringe player to talented, everyday asset.
And it’s not just that Ackley has simply improved his own play, which he clearly has. There’s an argument to be made that the ballclub as a whole has performed better because of Ackley’s dramatic metamorphosis.
An inquiring eye need not look any further than a recent stretch of games Ackley missed due to injury to see the impact he’s had on the entire M’s lineup. Still, a more critical mind might raise a skeptical eyebrow, so we undertook a not-so-in-depth analysis of the team’s performance with and without Ackley for comparison’s sake.
Of the team’s 55 games since the All-Star Break, Ackley has been included in the starting lineup 47 times. The club’s overall record in the season’s second half is a respectable 30-25, good for a .545 winning percentage. Their record with Ackley in the lineup, though, is 28-19 (.596), accounting for a .051 improvement in winning percentage. In turn, the Mariners’ record without Ackley in the lineup is just 2-6, a glaring .250 win rate. The contrast is as stark as a Capitol Hill hipster’s pasty white skin against the onyx hue of his $300 skinny jeans.
If the win-loss record won’t sway you, consider run production.
With Ackley in the lineup, the M’s have scored a total of 213 runs since the second half began, good for a 3.87 run-per-game figure. Over the 47 games with Ackley in the starting lineup, the M’s have manufactured a total of 199 runs, averaging out to an even better 4.23 runs per game. But without Ackley? In those eight contests Ackley has missed, the team has notched only 14 total runs, leading to a stomach-churning 1.75 runs per game.
Nobody saw this coming. Anyone who says they saw this coming is a liar. What Dustin Ackley has accomplished in the latter part of 2014 is absolutely amazing. Were there such an award as Second-Half Comeback Player of the Year, Ackley would certainly take home the trophy. He is Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, Carlos Santana with Supernatural. Ackley’s reversal of fortune, skill, ability, talent, whatever you want to call it, has been incredible.
If the Mariners intend to make the postseason for the first time in 13 years, they may very well do it on the backs of their stars, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager. Without Dustin Ackley’s second-half performance, however, this team certainly wouldn’t be where it is right now.