27 February 2013

Looking Back on Manny Machado's Rookie Season

The Orioles are expecting a lot of Manny Machado. Still just 20 years old after making his major league debut last August, Machado will be the team's everyday third baseman. The Orioles will be looking for him to carry over his strong defense at a position he never really played in the minors, while also expecting his offensive numbers to improve. In order for the O's to have any sort of repeat of last season, they'll need him to mature quickly.

When Machado was unexpectedly promoted last season, he didn't waste any time demonstrating that he belonged. In the fifth inning of his first game on August 9, he tripled to deep right-center field. He also added a single in his next at-bat. But he followed up his debut with an even better effort the next day, when he hit the first two home runs of his career -- a solo shot in the fifth and a three-run bomb in the sixth. He's got plenty of power in his swing, and it's scary to see how easily the ball flies off his bat.

A couple days later, Machado homered again, his third in his first four games. It was unlikely that he would continue slugging at that blistering pace, and things eventually slowed down. He sprinkled in some hits here and there, and he ended the month of August hitting .243/.260/.471 -- obviously not a great slash line. But one thing he did consistently was provide solid defense at third base. In an August series against the Red Sox, Machado made several strong defensive plays, including this game-ending diving grab to secure a 5-3 win on August 15:



On September 7, Machado homered for the first time in almost a month in a loss to the Yankees. After starting September with a stretch of a few multi-hit games, Machado was batting .293/.304/.525 after that loss. Unfortunately, that was the best his numbers would look for the rest of the season, though he wasn't done contributing. On September 12 against the Rays, Machado made one of the best and smartest defensive plays of the season when he faked a throw to first base and caught a runner sloppily rounding third:



The savvy play would have been fantastic for any third baseman, let alone a 20-year-old still learning the position. And if that weren't enough, Machado also singled in the bottom of the ninth and scored the winning run on Nate McLouth's walk-off single. The very next day, Machado singled in the winning run in the 14th inning to give the Orioles another 3-2 win over the Rays.

In a September 26 blowout win over the Blue Jays, Machado had his second two-homer game of the season. A couple days later, he knocked in two runs, including the go-ahead home run in a 4-3 win over Boston.

After going hitless in his final four games, Machado finished the regular season hitting .262/.294/.445 with a .317 wOBA. Again, that's not very good, but considering the team's starting shortstop, J.J. Hardy, finished with a .290 wOBA in 2012, it doesn't look quite as bad. Plus, there's no reason why Machado shouldn't perform better over the course of a full season, especially after getting his feet wet for a couple months.

Still, as you may have noticed, the Orioles, remarkably, headed to the postseason to face the Rangers in the AL wild card one-game play-in. Aided by strong pitching and timely hitting, the O's prevailed, 5-1. Machado played a part with an RBI single in the ninth to give the O's a little more cushion:



In the next round, the O's fell in five games to the Yankees, but Machado did homer in the third game of the series. In 19 postseason at-bats, he had only three hits. But it's not like the rest of the Orioles offense was much better. In those six games, the offense combined to hit just .195/.236/.270, the worst slash line of all 10 playoff teams.

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In about two months of baseball, Machado, in my opinion, exceeded early expectations. I didn't think the Orioles would promote him until 2013, and yet there he was, contributing to a playoff team. He was also a joy to watch on the defensive end and made both smart and athletic plays.

But while there's not necessarily much pressure on him to be great just yet, the Orioles didn't bring in much offensive help this offseason. From top to bottom, the O's lineup is decent, but it doesn't have much elite talent. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are very good, but they're not superstars. Chris Davis has plenty of power, but he doesn't get on base enough. And even though Matt Wieters is a fantastic catcher who most teams would love to have, his bat hasn't lived up to his prospect-level hype. Maybe Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts will help. It's not impossible that one or both will stay healthy, but it's certainly improbable, particularly in Roberts's case.

Basically, the Orioles need more out of Machado at the plate very soon, even if Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette don't admit it publicly. By opting against signing someone like Nick Swisher, the O's are gambling on guys like Machado and Reimold. That may not be such a bad idea, but it could very well fail in 2013.

30 comments:

Bret said...

If Machado does exactly what he did last year but plays in 155 games he will be worth 4 WAR or basically 3 more than they got out of 3B last season. Hardy is unlikely to be worse, 2B can't be any worse even if they play a high school backup on JV there. Markakis was hurt much of the year, Wieters wasn't very good offensively and Reynolds and Betemit both had plenty of issues.

The team did the correct thing, they don't need to be giving up draft picks on 32 year olds whether they are drug addicts or not. They need decent health and very low bar repeat performances at minimum at most positions. But I'm more worried about getting hit with chemical weapons from Syria than I am about Machado. He is going to be a star and I think it is very likely to happen this year.

Jon Shepherd said...

1. I think it would be a mistake to assume that we can simply extrapolate Machado's performance. I am sure at some point folks will probably talk of a sophomore slump, but Machado's bat really excelled for about two non-consecutive weeks against some poor competition. Not all of it, but enough to give pause when considering these incredibly small sample sizes.

2. Hardy's bat cannot get too much worse, but his glove can and, more probable, his injury rate.

3. 2B is about as well manned this year as it was last year.

4. Markakis has been uneven when he was healthy before, so I am not sure we can expect him to be special next year even if he has health.

5. Wieters was just as good offensively as he was the year before and has a very strong bat for a catcher.

6. Yes, Reynolds and Betemit were not good and needed to be restricted role players.

Bret said...

My basic point was that all the National Media keep saying is that the O's got lucky. And on the top line (runs scored/allowed) they are correct. But if you look at the bottom line (ingredients that went into the cake of runs scored allowed) not much went right other than the bullpen and Chen. Hammel was hurt, Arrieta was terrible, Hunter sucked, Britton wasn't good. They got negative 2.5 WAR out of second base. Yeah, it isn't well manned but a crappy AAA player should be a big improvement. Prior to McLouth LF was replacement level. Hardy had a .290w OBA as the article pointed out. Jones faded big in the 2nd half, he didn't have a great year. Wieters w/OBA last season was the same at age 26 as it was at age 23 in 2009.

It was an 82 win top line team but if you just get a bit of improvment a few places you can easily see playoffs even without Machado being a star which he will be.

I don't see where they will be worse other than the bullpen which isn't a huge WAR component compared to everything else.

Bret said...

And shouldn't Wieters be improving as he gets into his prime? Shouldn't Jones stop swinging at every slider in the dirt at age 27-28?

At some point people need to step up, that is correct. But Wieters is making 5.5 million and if he wants elite money he will have to show that he can do more than field.

Jon Shepherd said...

Re: Wieters. He is a top 5 catcher. All else is gravy and sometimes players do not improve as they get into their "peak years." That is a population trend, not an individual rule.

I think top much has been made of run differential and not enough made of more simple things like record in one run games or extra innings. Those two things are not skills as we best can tell because teams do not repeat an exceptional marks. We can get into the weeds and count all the ways the team struggled and all the ways the team succeeded, but it comes down to the fact that last year's team won in an exceptional way. It also comes down to the qualitative assessment of professionals that the talent level of the Orioles is not equal to their record last season. There seems to be little evidence that they were exceptionally hurt or exceptionally underperformed.

For instance, you can look at Jones and mention how badly he struggled. Or you can look at Jones and see that when he was not struggling, he was hitting the best he ever had for his career. The truth probably lies in between. We can look at LF and see how horrible it was before McLouth got there. We can also look at McLouth and see how horrible he was except when he was quite adequate upon joining the Orioles.

I just do not see a very strong argument saying the Orioles are a playoff competitor. The pieces just do not add up. They did not add up last year either. Sometimes exceptional things occur. Usually, exceptional things do not occur.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm very excited about Machado's future and think it's very bright. But he's still so young and it would be a mistake to expect him to have a dominant year in his first full season. He could very well have a great year, but I don't think it's necessarily expected that he will.

Bret said...

Jon,

Regarding your last comment, it is really the same thing. The team won close games, their phythag was 82 wins. If they go 19-19 in one runs games instead of 29-9 they win 83 games. I wholeheartedly agree they are a .500 or so true talent team based on last year, but they don't suck. Offensively I don't really think there is much place to go but up. If you can point out a position where down is the likely scenario I'm all ears. Jones had a decent year but his K/BB isn't good and he has room to improve. Everywhere else was below expectations last season in my mind except maybe Davis. Wieters has gotten no better in his prime.

If you can keep everything the same but get an extra win out of SS, 3 out of 2B (can't BROb be replacement level?), 3 out of 3B and maybe 1 out of RF with a healthy Markakis you can win 87-88 games even if the bullpen regresses a bit. That is a team that will be in the mix, especially with regression out of New York and possibly TB (no Shields or Upton).

I don't care what the media says, they don't use math. I just did. I don't listen to MSNBC to form an opinion on the National Debt either, I look at the numbers.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I think the Orioles can be a .500 team, but I'm not expecting a repeat of last season at all. Still, I think one thing you're overlooking is the pitching staff. I don't think anyone expected Hammel and Chen to be as good as they were. I wouldn't be surprised if either took a step back, or if Hammel's knee became an issue again. Also, Miguel Gonzalez came out of nowhere, and who knows how good he'll be this season. Duquette has given Showalter a lot of pitching options, but there aren't necessarily any elite guys.

What you're saying is fine -- sure, the Orioles could be good again. But just like last season, a bunch of stuff has to go in their favor, and their really isn't much margin for error. But none of us knows for sure what'll happen. We're just guessing.

Jon Shepherd said...

Bret...that the pyth win expectation and the one run game issue comes to the same conclusion does not mean the same thing. They have different reasons behind them. You can point to pyth and state things about run differences at certain parts in the season, but the same cannot be said for the other. I don't know if I am being clear here, but they are quite different things.

Bret said...

I'm not sure the point you are trying to make. I agree 100% about the luck factor in 1 run games and that they weren't a 93 win team last year. I think the problem is that the National Media takes that concession and jumps to the conclusion the Orioles are just like 2006-2011 and a 65 win team if not lucky last season. They weren't THAT lucky. Fact is they are more like a .500 team and that .500 team got some crap performances in many places.

Matt,

Hammel missed a lot of time. He was solid but only threw 118 innings. Chen's peripherals were pretty good, I don't see a huge red flag of regression coming. Gonzalez/Tillman/Steve Johnson will likely regress but those 3 combined threw about half as many innings as Arrieta/Hunter/Matusz/Britton/Eveland all of whom sucked.

They need better performance from the offense in particular, if they don't get it well then yeah they will probably be around .500. But if Wieters doesn't start coming forward he shouldn't be given a long term contract and if Hardy can't surpass a .290 w/OBA he should be traded and if Roberts can't stay on the field then it won't work. Obviously you need some progression and some performance, I'm not asking for the moon and stars.

Jon Shepherd said...

My point is that one run differential is a much stronger analytical indicator than total run differential. They are not interchangeable. Why does it matter? Because run differential is measuring a team that changed greatly during a season. It is not a real indicator of talent. One run differential is not about talent at the MLB level, it is about chance.

I don't know who has put them in the 60s. I have seen them in the 70s and I find that to be a rather easy argument to make. It is an argument that is probably as easy as putting them in the low 80s. I think 60s is a bit pessimistic, but possible. A lot of guys had atypical seasons last year for the club while the team did not suffer an extraordinary amount of injuries.

I am not sure why anyone would be upset with marks coming in the 60s or the 90s. This is a team with players that have very little track record as being elite talents in a division that may not be exceptional anymore but still contains several solid teams as well as being a team who achieved great success last year with a rotating group of players and exceptional performance in one run games (which is not a repeatable skill).

The outlook on the team should be one of suspicion as so little is known and that what is known are things that tend not to be very repeatable.

Bret said...

A lot of guys had atypical seasons last year? Atypically bad?

I mean we can run down the list.

2B - negative 2.5 WAR.
3B - Betemit had a .405 OPS from the right side and made tons of errors.
1B - Reynolds other than a 3 week stretch was beyond awful.
C - Wieters. Less WAR than in 2011 and same w/OBA as 2009.
RF - Markakis hurt, Davis playing out of position.
LF - Endy Chavez flat out sucked.

Even with all that the team still scored more runs than they allowed. I don't know how you get to 60s or 70s in wins when crappy performances led to more runs than allowed anyway.

I've already been over the starters.

Regarding your point on run differential not being a real indicator because the team changed, the last two months their run differential was great. That team should be much more in line with the team that starts on Opening Day than the overall differential would indicate.

Like I said, I view them as a .500 team with many more places to improve than regress, especially when you weight for innings.



Jon Shepherd said...

2B - well, first off, no. It is not -2.5. Read up on how Fangraphs compiles those position specific numbers. We have discussed this in a few posts at the Depot before. You are including a lot of players who played other positions and the WAR for those positions are counted in that total WAR. Most likely it is about a -1.5 or so, which is awful. And the team has not really worked on improving it significantly. It will be a challenge to match that level this year, but will not be incredibly hard given what the team has to work with.

3B - Well, Betemit was pretty good from the left side (why ignore that?). He was a net positive player who would have been around a 1.2 or 1.5 WAR, which is a decent second division starter. Machado will be taking over for Betemit (and Reynolds) at third. Machado had a very uneven short stay in Baltimore. His defense is better and should improve. His bat needs to improve a bit. You can see a lot of potential there. That said, it would not be a shock to see similar value out of third.

1B - Chris Davis has been beyond awful most of his career. Why do we think last year set a new performance level?

C - Wieters is an elite catcher who might be able to break out, but has not shown anything over the last two years to confirm he has another level to go to with his bat. I think there is more there, but the better bet is that there is not.

RF - Markakis did well last year and got hurt. His previous three (and very healthy) seasons he was average to below average at the plate. Why is last year establishing a new performance level for him?

LF - McLouth was not good for several years (including the Pirates last year) until he came up with the Orioles. He was then able to take all of that performance and turn it into a 2MM contract. Why are you so confidant that last year is more indicative of his true performance level?

Bret said...

If you add up all the negative WAR players on the O's 4 of the top 5 primarily played second base (Roberts, Flaherty, Quintanilla, Andino). The other played LF (Chavez). If you can get just replacement level production from those 2 positions it helps a lot.

3B - Yeah, Betemit is a good LH DH. He should never wear a glove and never bat right handed. He wasn't in the correct role last season. Giving Canzler his RH at bats will help.

1B - Davis didn't do anything crazy, he is still pretty young and never got a chance to play everyday in Texas. His BABIP was right in line with his career. He has flaws but will he exceed Reynolds' .5 WAR? Very very likely.

C - He isn't elite. This is where they need production if they want to win. He needs to turn a corner and improve, if he doesn't the path is murkier. Also Teagarden and Paulino combined were -.6 WAR. Replacement level would help a lot out of TT.

RF - He is a good player in a better lineup than in the past. 3 wins if he plays everyday should be more than reasonable.

LF - I'm just asking for replacement level but a platoon with Reimold would help.

SS - Hardy has to be better offensively.

You make it seem like I'm expecting crazy production. All I want is some marginal improvement at prime years from Jones and Wieters, health from Markakis and replacement level at 2B/LF. They can be a good team if they can just jump over a very low bar.

Jon Shepherd said...

The issue is that I think that you are seeing all of these things that went wrong and are thinking what if they just wound up OK. The issue I have with that is that it seems you are not discounting the good fortune the team had last year as well. As I mentioned before, this team did not suffer exceptionally poor performances as a team. They are not dirty ash colored snowflakes.

Joe Reisel said...

Allow me to weigh in. The Orioles have exactly one proven starting pitcher -- Hammel, who wouldn't rank among the top ten starting pitchers in the division. We don't know if Chen will stay healthy in his second year in America. Jurrjens is recovering from injury. None of the other seven candidates have had more than one good season -- and in most cases they've had half a good season.


The other point is that the Orioles have zero depth. If someone gets hurt, they're going to have to pull out the dragnet and hope for another McLouth.

Bret said...

And I don't think you are listening. The discount in good fortune is the fact that I'm saying they are a .500 team all things being equal to last year instead of a 93 win team. But then you look at last year and the underlying performance of that .500 level team and how lacking it was in many places.

If you can't give replacement level production you have no business being anywhere near the big leagues. And if McClouth and Roberts are that awful hello L.J. Hoes and hello Jonathan Schoop. Buck is not going to let horrendous performance go on interminably with so many other options in the wings in the minors.

Bret said...

Joe,

They didn't get great pitching last year. Chen was very solid but he was very solid because his peripherals were very solid. It wasn't built on smoke and mirrors. Arrieta's ERA was 2 runs above his FIP. Britton was bad, Matusz as starter - bad. Hunter - bad. Hammel missed 45% of the season.

And I disagree on depth. They have tons of SP that may not be Sandy Koufax but that I would want if I'm say the Rockies or Indians. Look at the Yankees, their 7th starter is Dellin Betances. The O's 7th starter is Arrieta or Steve Johnson or Bundy or Gausman.

Offensively it isn't as great but I think LJ Hoes is an everyday LF for some team by 2014 at the latest and they have other alternatives at other positions.

Joe Reisel said...

The starting pitchers you refer to have zero trade value. What would the Rockies or Indians -- not to mention a good team -- be willing to give up to get Arrieta? Or Matusz? Or Britton? Or Johnson? (I'm assuming the Orioles will release Hunter during spring training; he's out of options.) These are all guys another team would take a flyer on if released by the Orioles, but wouldn't give up much to get until they prove themselves.

Matt P said...

Chen had a 4 ERA. How bad do you think the Orioles thought he was? It's not like he went 22-6 with a 2.60 ERA. Do you really think he's going to fall apart and put up a 5 ERA?

The pitching goes both ways. Talk all you want about how Hammel, Tillman, Gonzo and Johnson overachieved. Arrieta, Britton, Matusz and Hunter pitched a lot of innings last year and did horribly. The horrible group threw sixty (17%) more innings then the good one.

If two of Hammel, Tillman, Gonzo and TBA don't suck then the starting pitching will be much stronger then it was last year. Especially if replacements for the bad ones do well.

Having a lot of question marks in the rotation is a much stronger position then where we were in 2012. In 2012, there weren't question marks but simply Fs.

Jon Shepherd said...

I still think there is a focus on things going right that went wrong last year. Things did not go exceptionally unwell last year. Therefore, I imagine things will go just as unfortunate this year. Yeah, it may be that 2B shores itself up to replacement level or above. However, Adam Jones might get injured or Machado or Hardy or Wieters or several of them. All of that would be unexceptional because injuries happen. To explain away bad luck last year leads to the temptation to ignore the unknown bad luck waiting for the team. I simply did not see any amazing bit of bad luck the team faced last year. I simply do not see what we would not expect that same typical level of bad luck.

Bret said...

Matt basically makes my point. I do think the bullpen will regress some but then again Kevin Gregg won't be there and bullpen WAR when compared to SP and everyday players is a minimal impact on overall innings.

Joe, Arrieta is a better than many 5th starters. He had the 3rd most WAR of any starter last year but got unlucky so his ERA was really high. I'm not saying another team would give up Mike Trout for him but you said depth. He isn't in their rotation but he could pitch for many teams. To me that is depth. And when you have two top 30 overall prospects waiting in the wings of the rotation that is more depth.

Jon,

Injuries happen but they got burned last year with injuries also. I do agree that Wieters/Markakis/Jones can't get hurt. But the O's could absorb one of those better than say if the Yankees lost Cano or TB loses Longoria. The O's don't have a clear star and injuries also happen to other teams (see Granderson, Hughes, Arod...). You can't guess on injuries, I'm factoring in full health for all AL East teams and I don't see a reason O's can't be right in the mix.

Matt P said...

Hunter was much better as a reliever then as a starter. His fastball was in the high-90s as a reliever instead of the high-80s as a starter. Sure, speed isn't everything but it helps. He'll stick.

Given that the Os offense suffered a reasonable amount of injuries and hasn't changed much I think we can expect a similar amount of production. A bit lower I suspect but not much.

The bullpen is similar to what it was last year and so I expect similar performance there as well. A bit worse due to regression and a bit better due to having no Gregg.

The major difference is the starters. You're replacing Hunter, Arrieta and Matusz with Tillman, Gonzo and TBA.

Hunter had a good year as a starter in 2010 and Matusz was decent that year. Tillman and Gonzo were decent in limited time in 2012.

The rotation had an average ERA of 4.42. If Tillman, Gonzo and TBA can put up an average ERA of 4.30 or so and throw 500 innings then this team will be better. If not, then probably not.

I think they get it done and that starting pitching actually becomes a strength. Not sure it's strong enough to take them to the playoffs but probably over .500.

Bret said...

The Orioles were 15th in the major leagues last year in pitching WAR. Is that great? No, but they could get slightly better with health out of Hammel and improvement from Britton and not using Matusz/Arrieta/Hunter so many innings with Bundy/Gausman as potential year end wild cards.

The real issue is non-pitching WAR where they were 25th in baseball. The potential for big gains is here. Barring injuries there is an easy path to 11 more WAR which would put them in the top 10. Machado gives you 3 extra at 3rd, Hardy 1 WAR at SS, Roberts 3 WAR, Davis 1 WAR, Wieters 1 WAR, McLouth 1 WAR, Markakis 1 WAR. Nothing crazy has to happen here. And 11 more wins with the same pitching gets you to a true talent of 93 wins rather than a lucky 93 wins.

Jon Shepherd said...

Any they could get worse performance. Both things can happen and historical evidence on the players leans in the worse category.

I think there is a bit of a shine going on. It is a natural tendency of people to imagine what could be if things broke right. Perhaps in an event with such a broad set of unforeseeable variables, such things are beneficial in planning for a team. However, the likely outcome is one where the team does not fair well.

Bret said...

Again that is where we disagree. At many positions I do not think they could get worse performance. It is like saying we could have a bloodier war than Stalingrad or something.

Getting negative 5 WAR out of second base seems impossible. I'm not sure the 1919 Black Sox could do that. I guess Hardy could go 0 for 600 and have a negative .290 w/OBA but it will be hard. Last year was the lowest WAR year of Markakis's careeer.

I'm not trying to spin straw into gold. I'm trying to look at what happened and what is likely to happen. They do need some natural progression and they need decent health but you are trying to make it like I'm saying they need 9 career years. They don't need that at all.

Bret said...

Answer me these questions.

Is Jones likely to be worse? Wieters? Markakis? Hardy? They didn't have Mike Trout last year, no one had a great career year. Adam Jones led the team easily in WAR with 4.6 and he was 29th in baseball. They don't have a star.

Will Davis likely be better than Reynolds?

Will Machado likely be better than Betemit/Reynolds at 3rd which was 2/3rds of last season?

Will McClouth be better than Endy Chavez?

Will Russ Canzler fare better in the 100 or so at bats from the right side that Betemit took last season?

Will BRob be worse than 2.5 negative WAR?

I'm not spinning, I believe the likely scenario in almost every case is improvment. If you disagree that is fine, but you will have to show work. Thus far all I've heard are platitudes and generalizations.

Jon Shepherd said...

Well, read the site. We talk numbers here. You can find them quite easily

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Bret, to be fair, it's not "showing your work" just to ask a bunch of questions and bring up several positions where you think the O's will improve. I really enjoy your enthusiasm, and I hope you're right. I would love for the O's to have a repeat of 2012.

Most likely, the O's will be a little better in some of the categories you mention and a worse in others. Maybe they get some more production from third base and second, for example. But that doesn't mean the bullpen will be as dominant, or some of the performances from Hammel or Chen or another starter will be as good. And they also probably won't win nearly as many one-run games.

Bret said...

I fully expect the bullpen to regress some but the combined WAR of the bullpen last year was about 6 WAR. They can regress a great deal and still be in the 2-3 WAR loss range or about how much 2B alone cost them last season. The bullpen isn't involved in enough innings to matter that much in the grand scheme.

I would direct you to this article on Machado which was the original point of the post.

http://passion4baseball.blogspot.com/2013/02/2013-projections-for-manny-machado-are.html

If he is a 5 WAR player this year the O's will be absolutely fine. He will be hitting 3rd by July.