There are two kinds of bad hitters: the guys that are bad all over (Chone Figgins) and the guys that are really bad in certain splits and actually kind of okay in others. Right now, Dustin Ackley is in the latter group. (When I say that term I always think of a bunch of guys standing on ladders, smiling and waving.)
I have always liked (to be fair, loved) Ackley, ever since the Mariners took him with the second pick in the 2009 draft. Sure, he wasn't Stephen Strasburg, but there couldn't be a better consolation prize that year that picking second, because those two looked like the only elite talents. And when Ackley had his continuous early-season slumps, I had to go right back to defending him and explaining why he'd get better.
And he always got better.
Ackley made his major league debut in 2011 and played in 90 games, hitting .273/.348/.417, 6 HR, 6 SB, 2.7 fWAR. Not bad for a rookie. But so far in 2012 in 45 games (half the amount, because I am a math genius) he's hitting .247/.312/.357 with 3 HR, 4 SB, and 0.4 fWAR.
What's the deal? Why hasn't he improved from last year? Here's just a quick Friday look at the numbers:
Ackley has a .296 BABIP, compared to his .339 BABIP of last season. He's walking at a lower rate but also striking out at a higher rate. He's on pace for nearly the same amount of home runs, but for a few more stolen bases. Really, one of the major differences in his SLG and power numbers this season is that Ackley hit 7 triples in a little over half-a-season, which isn't necessarily a number you can rely on, year in and year out.
Ackley's main problems (and positives) show in his splits:
.276/.333/.415 against RHP
.182/.262/.218 against LHP
The lefty is struggling against southpaws. He hit .224/.387/.365 against them in 85 at bats last year, a much more respectable line. He's going need to hope that as his BABIP raises, he can draw more hits and walks and even out his splits a bit.
Safeco isn't helping either:
.224/.307/.284 at 18 home games
.261/.315/.400 at 27 away games
It's lucky perhaps that the M's haven't played a lot of home games yet, but that number will eventually even itself out and Ackley is going to have to find more gaps and draw more walks when playing in front of the home crowd.
Finally, one more interesting split:
.221/.275/.305 batting 2nd in 102 PA
.276/.351/.414 batting 1st in 97 PA
None of the positive Ackley splits are "All-Star" numbers but know that if he's hitting leadoff, against a righty, on the road, Ackley is hitting damn well for a 2nd baseman. He just needs to hope that with a little improvement and a little luck, he can turn into the all-around, great player that I still believe he will become.