For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
Manny Machado is a Terminator in a baseball uniform. He was commissioned by the Baltimore Orioles to hit baseballs over fences and serve as a black hole at third base where extra-base hits go to die.
Last season, Machado was sensational. Playing in all 162 games, he posted career highs across the board, headlined by a .286/.359/.502 slash line to go along with 35 homers and 20 stolen bases. He also won his second Gold Glove and finished fourth place in the MVP voting, as well.
Among MLB third baseman, Machado finished third in home runs, tied for sixth in average, fifth in OBP and fourth in SLG. Given that he turned 23 halfway through last season, he’s due to continue at this torrid pace for awhile. Even at this age, Machado is arguably the best third baseman in the game. That’s an especially outstanding feat in a time where Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and the current reigning MVP in his leaque, Josh Donaldson, all man the hot corner.
2015 was Machado’s first year as a legitimate home run threat, and it’s easy to write off his success as a one year spike. A closer look at his numbers will tell you otherwise.
For the early part of his career, there was speculation that Machado would develop in such a way that his doubles would turn into home runs. In 2013, his first full season, he mashed 51 doubles and 14 home runs. By 2015, he had turned exactly 21 of those doubles into homers, finishing with 30 and 35.
All of this can be attributed to not only to increased strength, but his maturation as a hitter. Machado swung and missed a career-low 6.8 percent of the time last year while making contact at a higher clip than ever. Along with that, he swung at fewer pitches, leading to a higher walk rate and lower strikeout rate. To top it all off, his increased contact came with an increased percentage of hard hit balls.
So to summarize: Machado has bettered his pitch recognition while simultaneously making harder contact at a higher frequency. And it’s getting harder to throw baseballs past him. This trend can and will continue. Not only can Manny Machado destroy the world, he has acquired the blueprint for exactly how to do so.
There is one major problem with Baltimore possessing a weapon of this magnitude- they don’t have any reason to use it. It’s as if Cyberdyne created the Terminator, but never developed Skynet. The Terminator just sits in a warehouse somewhere with without being turned on.
The Orioles are the warehouse in this metaphor.
The team that went 81-81 a season ago did nothing this offseason to get significantly better. They did re-sign Chris Davis, while also signing Pedro Alvarez and acquiring Mark Trumbo in a deal with the Mariners. There’s a lot of pop between those three guys and the Orioles are going to hit a lot of baseballs out of stadiums this season.
The only issue there is that Baltimore’s problem wasn’t scoring. They finished ninth in the Majors in that category. Their problem is that their starting rotation couldn’t get anybody out.
So that leaves a .500 team right about where it was a season ago in an American League East that looks to have two or three playoff contenders and Baltimore won’t be one of them.
The good news for the Orioles is that Machado is only going to get better. All of his numbers indicate an upward trend that’ll have Machado in the MVP discussion for the foreseeable future. While the O’s won’t finish at the top of their division, their third baseman could very well finish at the top of the MVP vote.
Experiment 626. Coffee drinker and cat enthusiast. Pro-avocado. Anti-sac bunt. Habitual bat flipper. Alex Smith apologist. Yoenis Cespedes fanboy.