Dustin Ackley at 2B? That's a #1-overall worthy player

CrustyJuggler pointed out Gammons' report regarding Ackley's potential at second base.  What gives the story traction is that Jack Zduriencik likes the idea.

If Ackley actually moved from OF to second base, that would also move him from "Player of choice, in an uncomfortable draft position, in an uncomfortable draft" to "true #1-worthy pick."


=== Feasibility Studies, Dept. ===

Would it take Ackley four years, or eight, or what, in order to meet our local standards for aesthetically-pleasing defense?  ;- ) 

One historical precedent here is Craig Biggio.  We s'pose it was before some of you kiddies' time when Biggio came up as a catcher -- not a "maybe" catcher like a Jeff Clement or young Carlos Delgado, but a true catcher. 

Biggio came up through the minors as a pure catcher, and played for the Houston Astros in 1988 playing nothing but catcher exclusively -- as, say, Rob Johnson might.  In 1989 he played 125 games as the Astros' first-string catcher, mixing in 10 games in the OF, much as a Kenji Johjima might play a little outfield just to provide position flexibility.

In 1990, Biggio was still the Astros' first-string catcher, but they mixed him into the OF more.  

In 1991, as Biggio was mixing around the diamond, he played 139 games as the starting catcher, 4 games in the outfield ... and filled in three games in the infield.

Then, that offseason before 1992, after Biggio had been the Astros' catcher about as long as Kenji Johjima has been ours, the Astros got the idea to convert their starting catcher to .... wait for it ... second base.


=== Close Your Mouth, You'll Catch Flies Dept. ===

I well remember how incredulous Bill James (and Dr. D) were at the concept of converting a catcher to second base WHILE IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES.  When Biggio "won" the debate -- spectacularly -- he became one of James' alltime favorite players.

Granted, Biggio could always run -- he was stealing 20 bases even while crouching behind the plate all day.  But with Ackley too, that's what you're talking about -- a non-infielder who can run.


As you might recall, Biggio turned out to be a little more than "adequate" at second.  Beginning in his 3rd year at the position, he won four straight Gold Gloves.

How?  TALENT over EXPERIENCE.   Physical gifts over training.


=== Hey, Biggio Took All Winter Dept. ===

Pete Rose is another great precedent, in my view.  In 1975, my childhood heroes in Cincy were off to a slow start (about 17-17 or something; look 'er up). 

Sparky Anderson pulled one of the masterworks of all-time managing:  he wanted to get George Foster's bat in the lineup, so he told Pete Rose to move to third base BETWEEN GAMES.   As I remember the story, the Reds went about 41-10 over the next two months, as the stacked Reds' lineup simply overpowered the globe over the next two years.

True, Rose had come up originally as an infielder, but do not let that quibble deflect you.  The last time Rose had played the infield was 1967-68, and Rose was 34 years old (!) at the time of the switch.  

Believe me, Rose was a left fielder.  The amazement, in 1975, was similar to what you'd have seen if you'd have moved Robin Yount or Gary Sheffield to 3B when they were in thir mid-30's... 

Which, of course, wouldn't have really been so amazing anyway.  Which is kind of the point here anyhow.


How did Sparky move a left fielder to third base BETWEEN GAMES?

Listen carefully.

Pete Rose was a great athlete, and Pete Rose went out and took 500 ground balls every single day.

That's all.

Don't get TOO precious about what position a major league athlete should play, kiddies.  :- )  It's baseball.

When we 'net rats are thinking about the switch, we're thinking, "well, how much second has he played?!"  But I will GUARANTEE you what Jack Zduriencik is thinking is, "well, how many ground balls is he willing to take?"


=== ACK! Dept. ===

Here we're not talking about a 34-year-old outfielder learning to play third base in the majors between Thursday and Friday.  :- )

We're talking about a young, fast 21-year-old (?) whose COLLEGE COACH assures us can play a GREAT second base.  (A college ballplayer's manager, if at a major school, is the most-qualified scout of that particular player.  If the manager's report is edited down to its technical details, then his evaluation is obviously more important than that of a visiting scout who has seen the kid bat fifteen or twenty times.)


And, you quibble that Rose had some infield in his past.  ::shrug:: so does Ackley.  At 1B you scoop grounders, you pivot and throw quickly, you react quickly.  As well, I'm sure Ackley has played SS/2B in high school, slo-pitch, whatever.  In other words, get a pickup game going tomorrow and I'm sure Ackley would look like a fish in water at short.

What, me worry?  If his coach says he can play second, and the kid is a hard worker, and he has obvious footspeed, ::shrug:: well, put him there.


Maybe you put him at second in the minors, and it doesn't work out.  You've lost nothing.  The Mariners like to dink around with guys at positions just to amuse themselves.  No harm no foul.

What D-O-V thinks is:  if the UNC coach says Ackley can be a great second baseman, then I wouldn't hesitate to draft and pay him as a second baseman.


=== Position Scarcity Dept. ===

From a sabermetric standpoint, they'll chalk a guy up 15 runs (or whatever) for moving that far along the defensive spectrum.

I agree with this, but don't think it goes nearly far enough.  Far more important than the +15* runs compared-to-other-2B's, is the fact that having a #3 hitter at a glove spot increases your piece mobility.

It increases your options, it positions you to sieze opportunities, and there's simply no way to assign enough value to that.   It's just much EASIER to build a pennantwinner around Yogi Berra than around Ted Williams, and there isn't any +15 number you can use to SABR Berra's value compared to Teddy's.  It's a paradigm issue.


Dustin Ackley is, by consensus, far-and-away the safest "impact" selection in the draft (Strasburg not counting, of course).  He's lefty.  He's an OBP guy.  He's worth more to the Mariners than to other teams.

If he's also a middle infielder, he's a true #1 overall.


Dr D




Satire.  As Dodger fan at that time, I would have loved it if Foster wasn't there.  I'm sure Reds fans could care less if he was a statue out there.  He was a masher.
Just seems to me that every player mentioned in local cyberspace always comes with some sort of defense comment.  I suppose that if the M's wanted to trade for A-Rod (contract notwithstanding) these days, that the objection to it would be that his D isn't as good as Beltre's.

OBF's picture

We see over at MC people are worried about moving Lopez to third as well, stating that he hasn;t played a single game there since 2007.  To which my feeble mind says...So?  Not only could Lopez move there tomorrow, but I bet he would be an defensive ASSET at third (instead of the slight liability he is at 2nd).  My non beltre infield would look like:
3rd -- Lopez
SS -- Cedeno
2nd -- YuBet
1st -- Branyan
Or even better:
3rd -- Branyan
SS -- YuBet / Jack Wilson (if the trade rumors are true) / Cedano
2nd -- Lopez
1st -- Carp / Clement :)
More left mashers = More better!  And Branyan would aquit himself just fine at third (That is the position he has played the MOST in the majors).
The biggest issue here is whoever moves into third CAN NOT be compared to Beltre defensivly.  Beltre is truly one of THE BEST defenseive third sackers of all time.  Just get his defense out of your mind, because whoever we put there, even if we put a pure SS there, will not have the amazing instincts and glove that Beltre does!


Caveat 1) Pete Rose was a HORRRRRIBLE defensive third baseman.  Chipper Jones bad.  Russ Davis bad.  He was a nightmare at third.
Caveat #1: George Foster may have been the worst defensive outfielder of the 1970s if not for Greg Luzinski
Caveat #3: Russell Branyan may have played a lot of third, but he did so very badly.
The Mariner defense hasn't been spectacular lately anyway and moves need to be made to shake up this team.
I'm wholeheartedly in favor of moving Beltre in a deal for a middle infield prospect and a relief pitcher (MLB ready), shifting Branyan to third for the rest of the season and calling up Mike Carp to play first.  That line-up would be MUCH more appealing to me..
RF) Ichiro (L)2B) Lopez (R)3B) Branyan (L)LF) Balentien (R)1B) Carp (L)CF) Gutierrez (R)DH) Griffey (L)C) Johjima (R)SS) Betancourt/Cedeno (R)


I don't get the controversy about Lopez at 3B at all.  About the only reason not to play a 2B at 3B would be if he didn't have the arm.
It is possible, I guess, that Lopez would hurt the ballclub at 3B, but it is also possible that we in cyber-Seattle get a little too precious about defense.  :- )   At some point you'd better start scoring a few runs.

Anonymous's picture

The mid-70s Reds after the Rose shift got noticeably worse on team defense and even more noticeably better in the hitting department...obviously the net gains exceeded the net losses despite Rose and Foster being horrendous with the gloves...
It helps that the Reds were built more around offense than defense anyway.
The 2009 Mariners can't afford to run a 2008 Mariner defense...they need good defense to have any chance of winning (because no matter how many bats we try to add...the offense is not going to be much better than OK (because too many positions are ossified).
We need Wlad in there and hitting well, we need Branyan in there and hitting well...we need Griffey taking pitches and drawing walks, we need Ichiro to get on base, and we need Lopez and whoever we add to replace Beltre to start hitting immediately.

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