24 April 2018

At Least Manny Machado Is Hitting

It's almost amazing how inept the Orioles' lineup has been in the season's first month. Through April 23, the O's offense ranks in the bottom five among all MLB teams in the following categories: runs scored per game, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA, wRC+, hard-hit percentage, and strikeout percentage.

Only two everyday players have a wRC+ over 72: Manny Machado (208) and Trey Mancini (113). Pedro Alvarez (109), Chance Sisco (91), and Danny Valencia (78) don't play every day, but they've been fine. Things get ugly for everyone else.

But instead of focusing on that, let's get back to Machado and that 208 wRC+. He needed to have a bounce-back season, and so far, he's been incredible. After consecutive 6+ fWAR seasons in 2015 and 2016, Machado's 2.5 fWAR 2017 was a disappointment. But in almost 100 plate appearances in 2018, Machado already has an fWAR of 1.6, which is tied for second best in the majors.

After posting a career low .265 BABIP last season, Machado has been much more fortunate on balls in play this year (.359 BABIP). Still, he's doing more than getting a few singles to drop in here and there. He's walking at what would be a career-best clip (12.1%; career-high 9.8% in 2015), and he's continuing to hit the ball hard:

Avg. exit velocity (via Baseball Savant)
2016: 90.3 (t-79th)
2017: 90.9 (t-16th)
2018 (so far): 91.2 (t-51st)

That ranking is low in 2018 because it's still relatively early in the season, but it shows that Machado is still making solid contact. And not only is he hitting the ball hard, but he's getting loft. His current flyball percentage of 52.8% is about 10% more than last season and would easily be a career high. Naturally, so would his average launch angle:

Avg. launch angle (via Baseball Savant)
2016: 19.7
2017: 18.4
2018 (so far): 21.7

It's too early to know if Machado is finally making his move to become one of the best hitters in baseball. Even though he's only 25 years old, he's seemingly had the tools for years but wasn't able to put everything together. But if he's getting on base, hitting the ball hard, and launching the ball over infielders' heads? He could be ready to have a monster year at the plate... in what will almost certainly be his final season in Baltimore. Better late than never.

Photo via Keith Allison. Stats via FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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