Unless something drastic happens between now and winter, current Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado is going become a very, very rich man. After all, how many two-time Gold Glove winners with three seasons of 30-plus homers become available prior to their age-26 campaign?
Yea, not many.
Following a disappointing performance last year (by his high standards) in which he slashed .259/.310/.471 with 33 homers and 95 RBI through 690 plate appearances, Machado has returned to his dominant self in 2018.
Shifting from third base back to his natural position at shortstop hasn’t forced him to miss a step. Through 99 plate appearances, he’s slashing a very healthy .356/.434/.713 with 8 homers, 17 RBI, and 13 runs scored. These numbers have helped Machado posted a 208 wRC+, a top-five mark in baseball heading into action on Monday.
He did some of that heavy lifting Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards, too. The Orioles had the tall task of facing a reigning Cy Young winner in Corey Kluber. He helped the Cleveland Indians win the ballgame, but Machado did this against him.
If you’re thinking this is a movie we’ve seen many times before (and recently), you’d be right. This is the third time Machado has notched a multi-homer performance in 2018 and the 17th time he’s done so in his young career.
That puts him in some elite company.
We touched upon the general ineptitude of the Orioles’ offense to start the year recently, but here’s another quick reminder on how bad they’ve been.
Machado is among the league leaders in home runs, but Baltimore hasn’t truly taken advantage. Entering Monday’s action, the Orioles’ team wRC+ of 76 is better than only the Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, and Cincinnati Reds. That’s not exactly the kind of company they’d like to be keeping.
While Machado’s 39.5% hard-hit rate from 2017 became a new single-season career high, his 42.1% ground-ball rate also rose when compared to the year prior. He’s completely changed that in the early going this season, evidenced by a 27.8% ground-ball rate, 52.8% fly-ball rate, and 33.3% hard-hit rate.
It looks like Baltimore has their superstar back on track at the plate, but adequate production is missing from virtually every other part of the roster. In a division like the American League East, where the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees appeared to have a clear upper hand, manager Buck Showalter‘s club doesn’t have a big margin for error.
Unfortunately for them, everything that could’ve have gone wrong on offense has already happened, outside of Machado. And when we couple their disappointing 6-16 start with Boston’s historic 17-4 start, they’re looking at an 11.5-game deficit between them and first place despite it not even being May yet.
Having the 2015-16 version of Manny Machado back at the plate is welcome sight. However, the Orioles’ futility is setting them up to be in an interesting position come summertime after being open to dealing their star player last winter.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.