The Orioles’ Machado has shown that he’s more than just a defensive star.
While Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have rightfully taken most of the headlines as the face of baseball, the Baltimore Orioles have a player who deserves to be a part of the conversation as well. No matter what metric you look at, Manny Machado has developed into one of the game’s premier all-around players.
Following season-ending knee injuries in 2013 and 2014, Machado finished the 2015 campaign with 6.8 fWAR, ranking him sixth among all position players in the game. This elite-level production was not only found defensively at the hot corner, but also at the plate and on the base paths. To paint a better picture, we’ll break down each aspect piece by piece.
At The Plate
Prior to his 2015 offensive outburst, Machado had been a slightly above average hitter who was known more for his defense than offense. However, that all changed last year thanks to a change in his approach.
Last season, Machado made an effort to see more pitches than he had ever done before at the Major League level. He swung at a career low 43.6% of pitches (league average 47.4%), including only swinging at 25.7% of pitches outside the zone (league average 31.3%). This resulted in Machado getting a better feel for the pitcher and allowed him to get into better counts where he could attack a pitch of his liking.
Another result of taking more pitches was found in his walk rate. Prior to last season, Machado had a career walk rate of 4.6%. Nevertheless, 2015 was a different story, one where Machado posted a 9.8% rate, above the league average of 7.7%. This helped boost his on-base percentage to a new career high of .359.
While the walk rate helped Machado get on base, his strength helped take him to the next level as well. During his age-20 season, Machado led the AL in doubles. This sent off alarms to everyone watching the game of the type of power that he might have when he fully matures. Well it appears Machado has matured quite nicely.
Machado home runs became a common sight for O’s fans in 2015, as he belted 35 homers, tied for 13th-most in the MLB. Considering this all occurred in his age-22 season, it leaves fans wondering just how much power might be in his tank.
While Machado’s offensive game developed in 2015, his defense has always been something that has been jaw-dropping. If you need any reminders of his incredible range and arm, here’s a compilation of his finest moments in the field last season:
Machado had spent all but two games of his minor league games at shortstop. There was no doubt about his ability at shortstop, even getting recognized by Baseball America as the best defensive shortstop in the Eastern League during the 2012 season. However, J.J. Hardy was already at this position, forcing Machado to head to third when he was called up in 2012.
The results of this transition have been fantastic, as he has established himself as one of the premier defensive talents since day one. Among third basemen that have collected at least 2,000 innings at the position since 2012, Machado ranks second with a UZR/150 of 17.8, meaning he has saved 17.8 runs per 150 games over an average third baseman. He’s truly one of the game’s elite defenders that can change a game with his glove and arm.
On the Paths
Machado has never been known for his speed, often rated as an average runner by scouts. This hadn’t translated into many steals or extra bases for Machado, but that changed in 2015 as well.
Before 2015, Machado had gone first to third on singles only 23.2% of the time. Last season, Machado nearly doubled this percentage by going first to third 45.9% on singles. This was well above the American League average of 27.6%, showing that he was willing to be more aggressive.
This aggressiveness spread to his base stealing as well. Machado had more stolen bases in 2015, 20, than he had attempts in his career prior to the season, 17. While his rate of 71.4% wasn’t spectacular (AL average was 69%), this was an improvement upon previous years and further shows that he has changed his approach as he continues to mature as a ballplayer.
This change in approach, both at the plate and on the base paths, has allowed Machado to enter the discussion as one of the elite players in the game. After posting a 20/20 season in 2015 with 6.8 fWAR, Machado will look to improve upon those numbers in 2016. He’s still only 23 years old and has an incredible ceiling for what could come.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com
Edited by Emily Berman.
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