It may seem like Machado has been in a Baltimore Orioles uniform much longer, because his impact was instantaneous as he seamlessly fit into the clubhouse and quickly became a major piece of the Orioles’ resurgence.
But Machado, who last month turned 21 and appeared in his first all-star game, is showing signs that he’s still growing as a player.
“I think it’s a story still being written,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s a competitive guy. You can tell he’s been around a lot of good baseball.
“The comfortable thing for me is that I think Manny is going to be as good as he’s capable of being. I think a lot of the challenges that guys face don’t always happen on the field. He’s pretty grounded. He’s watched a lot of baseball and he’s a fan of the game. That’s important. He doesn’t think there’s anything beneath him, but he’s not naive either. He’s learned to say no a little bit more.”
When the Orioles promoted Machado straight from Class AA Bowie, they did so hoping he would fortify their defense at third base while allowing his bat to adjust to major league pitching. In 165 games since, he’s posted a .287 batting average with a .318 on-base percentage and .451 slugging percentage with 17 homers, 80 RBI and 91 runs while also proving to be one of the best defensive players in baseball at his position.
Batting in the the No. 2 spot this season, his 144 hits were one short of the major league lead entering Thursday. Among American League position players, he has the third-highest wins-above-replacement (5.2), a sabermetric statistic that measures the number of additional wins a player would contribute to a team compared to a replacement-level player. His defensive WAR (3.1) is best in the league.
But Machado hasn’t been immune to growing pains.
July was the first month of the season in which Machado batted worse than .300, and he hit just .196, finishing the month with just three hits in his final 24 at-bats. He’s also fallen off the pace in his chase of Earl Webb’s single-season doubles record, getting just two since the start of July after having 38 through the first 83 games. (Machado would need 27 doubles in the final 48 games to match the record that has stood since 1931.)
In August, though, Machado has bounced back, going 9 for 25 (.360) in the first six games of the month.
“Everybody goes through it, not just myself,” Machado said. “It’s just the nature of the game. You’re going to be hot today and the next day you might go down a little bit. It’s just how you handle it and go out there and try to just make the game simpler and play baseball.
“I think that’s something I’ve learned being a part of this and being under Buck,” Machado added. “He takes care of me and he tells me to go out there and do what you do. It’s just not a game for myself. I’m trying to make the playoffs, and that’s what everybody in this clubhouse has as a goal. . . . If I go 0 for 20 or go 20 for 20, I just want to go out there and keep grinding.”
Machado still talks about the day he was called up and the impact of Showalter’s first conversation with him. Machado said his new manager made him feel like he belonged in the majors and in the Orioles clubhouse.
Showalter admits that his main concern heading into Machado’s first full major league season was how the young player would handle the grind. Machado has played all but 51 / 2 innings since his call-up, the exceptions being an ejection in June and an 11-0 loss to the Houston Astros last week when he was replaced in the bottom of the eighth.
— Baltimore Sun