On the surface, the 2017 season was another good one for Manny Machado.
His .782 OPS was his lowest since 2014, but it was his third consecutive year of hitting 30-plus homers while appearing in 150-plus games. And after failing to steal a base in 2016 (following a year in which he swiped 20 bags), he got himself back to running with nine thefts.
When looking at some of his advanced statistics, though, it’s easy to see this wasn’t the kind of overall performance we were expecting from him. After having a .360-plus wOBA, 130-plus wRC+, and 6.0-plus fWAR in 2015 and 2016, those numbers settled in at just .328, 102, and 2.8 last year, respectively.
And if he didn’t bounce back to a degree in the second half, those numbers would’ve been lower. Take a look at how some of his statistics compare when his 2017 is broken down by half.
With a career-high 39.5% hard-hit rate in 2017, it seemed like only a matter of time for that BABIP to experience positive regression, which is exactly what happened after the All-Star break (Machado had a .297 BABIP in ’15 and .309 mark in ’16).
Getting Big When it Matters Most
One situation where Machado didn’t struggle at the plate last season was with runners in scoring position. This particular stat shared by Inside Edge stands out upon remembering the soon-to-be 26-year-old’s lack of overall production (when compared to previous years).
It’s not out of the ordinary for middle-of-the-order hitters like Machado to perform better when the opportunity to drive in runs is there. However, what is interesting is the progression his numbers took last year depending on the situation.
Check out the below table, which compares his OPS, ISO, ground-ball rate (GB%), fly-ball rate (FB%), hard-hit rate (Hard%), wOBA, and wRC+ with the bases empty, runners on base, and runners in scoring position.
|Men on Base||267||.844||.242||41.2%||44.3%||42.4%||.346||115|
Literally every single one of these categories improved as the opportunity to drive in runs increased. We could point to the fact that the sample size also continually decreases, which could have an impact in a number of areas, but it’s still impressive to see this across-the-board rise.
And, for what it’s worth, Machado’s walk rate and strikeout rate went on the same trajectory — his walk rate went from 5.7% up to 10.1%, while his strikeout rate went from 16.8% down to 12.2%.
But this is nothing new. It’s not nearly as drastic, but the Baltimore Orioles’ new shortstop has been at his “worst” with nobody on base and at his best with runners in scoring position throughout his career. Machado owns a 112 wRC+ with the bases empty, a 120 mark with runners on, and a 131 mark with them in scoring position since debuting in 2012.
A Crucial Year Ahead
Every season is important, but there are three particular reasons why 2018 is pivotal for Machado.
Even though Baltimore opted not to trade him over the winter, you know rumors will start to flow if the Orioles sputter out of the gate or find themselves out of contention once summer rolls around. This is also his final year before hitting free agency, which could end up being a lot of fun for him. And as if rebounding from a somewhat frustrating season wasn’t enough, he’s also moving back to shortstop after playing 6,331 of his 6,700-plus MLB innings at third base.
We can’t read into spring-training stats too much, but it seems like Machado is already locked in. Entering 2017, he slashed .154/.241/.308 through 26 at-bats in the Grapefruit League. Through 37 at-bats this spring, he’s hitting an incredible .432/.475/.784 with 15 RBI and more extra-base hits (4 doubles, 3 homers) than strikeouts (3).
He’s got a lot on his plate to deal with this season, but one thing we can be reasonably certain of is that when the pressure is on with men in scoring position, Machado will be ready for the challenge.
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.