Geoff Baker wrote a blog this morning, cautioning Mariners fans to temper their excitement over Dustin Ackley's Arizona Fall League MVP honors. As he points out, AFL MVP winners have historically not done much in the majors, with the notable exception of Tommy Hanson.
So, is Ackley more like Hanson, or the rest of the winners?
Below is the complete list of winners, along with their respective ages when they won the award:
2002 - Ken Harvey, 24 years old
2003 - Jason Dubois, 24 years old
2004 - Chris Shelton, 24 years old
2005 - Eric Duncan, 21 years old
2006 - Chip Cannon, 24 years old (and almost 25)
2007 - Sam Fuld, 25 years old (and almost 26)
2008 - Tommy Hanson, 22 years old
2009 - Grant Desme, 23 years old
2010 - Dustin Ackley, 22 years old
When it comes to age, baseball players are kind of like dating. The older you get, the less noticeable age gaps are. The difference between a 31 and 33-year-old isn't all that noticeable. However, the difference between an 18 and 20-year-old is huge.
So, it is worth noting that Dustin Ackley is among the youngest players to win the AFL MVP award. Historically, players that are a few years older tend to take home the trophy. That makes sense, because age gaps are so significant when players are younger. Older players have a natural advantage because their bodies have matured more, and they also have more experience. Development tends to be rapid when players are rather young. Not surprisingly, players among the oldest in the Fall League tend to have MVP performances.
As a brief aside, this is a good excuse to talk about the amazing story of Grant Desme. After winning the AFL MVP award, he felt called to be a pastor, and quit baseball. We will never know what he would have done in the majors.
Being young doesn't guarantee that Ackley will buck the trend of most AFL MVPs. Just ask Eric Duncan. However, it is a noteworthy difference between Ackley and most winners. It is a solid reason to believe that he can be different.