Wedge talks about his sabermetric comment
After the Mariners sent Dustin Ackley down to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday, manager Eric Wedge drew considerable heat for a comment about the struggling second baseman’s mindset at the plate being affected by the growing focus on sabermetrics.
“It’s the new generation,” Wedge said that day as part of several lengthy answers to questions on Ackley’s struggles. “It’s all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean? People who haven’t played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids’ heads.”
Wedge was asked about the comment Wednesday and said he uses sabermetics and statistical analysis all the time, but feels hitters need to maintain an aggressive mindset at the plate and not get overly caught up in working deep into counts in an attempt to bolster their on-base percentages.
“Hey, I use the numbers as much as anybody,” Wedge said. “I used the numbers in Cleveland. And Cleveland was one of the first teams to really dive into it with Mark Shapiro leading the way. So I’ve always been a big fan of using the numbers.
“But you are talking about one comment and they weren’t there for the entire conversation. We were talking about the mental side of it. We were talking about Ackley. That’s not the reason Ackley was having issues at home plate. What I’m talking about is this recent generation of players that has come up in the sabermetrics world. It’s something that’s out there and people know how important it is.
“What you can’t do is play this game with fear. You have to go out there and play and when you get your first good pitch to take a whack at, you have to take a whack at it. People stress so much getting deeper in counts and drawing walks, it’s almost a backward way of looking at it.”
Wedge feels the issue took on a life of its own because he poked the sabermetric bear.
“When I bust somebody’s chops or make a joke at it, you can take it in a light-hearted way or you can take it personally,” he said. “Quite frankly, I don’t care either way. But the fact of the matter is, sabermetrics is a part of the game of baseball. It has been for a while. It’s my job to see it from all ways.
“What people have to see is these are human beings. They are not widgets. It’s not XYZ corporation – something out of a book. These are human beings. And that’s the thing you have to factor in the most. They have emotions. They have families. You have ups and downs and everything that goes a long with it. Things you can’t read on a piece of paper.
“But it’s most definitely part of it. I use it each and every day. It’s not the end all. It’s not just black and white. It’s got to be a nice blend between the human factor and the numbers. You have to be able to go out there and motivate these guys and treat them as human beings as well. So for those who I offended, I’m sorry about that. One thing you have to have in this game is broad shoulders and a thick skin. That’s something that is part of it, too.”
Wedge said he’d never heard Ackley talk about sabermetrics or that approach, but believes most players are exposed to the thought that it’s critical to work counts and draw walks as opposed to going up ready to hit first and that makes some players too passive.
“The internet and everything else, the information that’s out there, they’re human beings, too,” he said. “If you’re on it, they’re on it, too, I’m sure. You hear all the baseball experts say you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. Again, there’s a way to go about doing it where you can have the best of both worlds. You’ve got to be ready to hit. You can be both ready to hit be disciplined at the same time. That’s the mental approach.
“I’m all about getting on base, but I’m about hitting, too. People have to understand: You can’t go up there looking for a walk and expect to be a big-leaguer very long. Nobody’s stayed up here by just walking. You’ve got to hit, too. You can get deep in the count all you want, but eventually you have to hit. It’s just not a black and white thing like some people think. I can’t explain it any better than that.”