Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley have struggled mightily during the course of their young MLB careers, but they have also flashed plenty of titillating potential. The back and forth between struggling and those flashes of potential have been infuriating to Mariners fans who just want their team to not suck anymore. But there is some hope for M’s fans, as both Smoak and Ackley have been absolutely on fire during the first week of the 2014 season — the team has played six games so far, and already has suffered a “rain out“.
The two have combined for a three home runs, 14 RBIs, and 0.7 WAR in the first game of six games of the season. And a lot of that early production has come with authority from the bats; as Smoak has posted a .333 ISO and Ackley’s is at .250. Let’s take a deeper look into both of their early season numbers.
Now the most impressive stat for me is the fact that Ackley’s strikeout rate is so low, an incredible 7.7%, and that obviously is helping his offensive value. It is also interesting to note that his walk rate is sitting at a low 7.7% as well, despite the fact that he is swinging at less pitches outside of the strike zone (his O-swing percentage is at a career low 15.8%).
Ackley is hitting the ball more consistently on a pitch in the strike zone than he has in the past as well (his Z-contact percentage is at a career high of 93.3%). If he is able to consistently make contact on pitches in the zone, and continue to punish those pitches, he should be able to draw more walks as pitchers try to stay away from the strike zone.
Just like Ackley, Smoak is benefiting from a career low O-swing percentage of 23.8% and has a career average walk rate of 11.1%. That being said, what Smoak is doing differently is crushing the ball when he makes contact with it — he has a ISO of .333 and a slugging percentage of .625. This increase in slugging percentage is because of the fact that 22.2% of his fly balls end up being home runs.
Smoak is also benefiting from a tad bit more luck in the first six games as his BABiP is .333.
It’s way to early to draw any types of conclusions about whether or not Smoak and Ackley are “fixed”. These are just some interesting trends to note and pay attention to, because if they continue…it’s going to be a fun season at the corner of Edgar Martinez Dr. and Dave Niehaus Way.
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