Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado Staring Down Slippery Slope

By Thom Tsang
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Just where has the All-Star version of Manny Machado gone?

Not even the best in the game can avoid all the ups and downs that the bigs have to offer, of course, but the way that the third baseman has been going for the Baltimore Orioles lately … he might be at risk of staring down at a whole lot more of the latter than the former down the stretch.

The selection to participate in the Midsummer Classic may have done its fair share to mask the slide, but one look at the 21-year-old’s .230/.250/.311 triple-slash through 76 PA in July should tell you that this isn’t the same youngster who took the bigs by storm. Though he’s successfully recorded hits in 12 of the 17 games he played this month, the mere three extra-base hits should be enough to set off alarms that his power has been robbed.

What you might not know, though, is that this is arguably the culmination of a trend that’s been developing for some time now.

To find it, you’d  have to look as far at a three-month glimpse of his peripherals from May-July, such as the rising strikeout rate (11.5 percent, 19.4, 21.1) and the fact that this is now the second month in a row that he’s posted a downright poor 0.13 BB/K. No, drawing walks hasn’t exactly been his calling card, but when he’s no longer tearing the cover off the ball, it becomes a major problem that only exacerbates the slump.

Oh, and don’t think Machado has been hurt by luck just because of the .281 BABIP this month either. As his line drive rate has been in steady decline (26.2 percent, 24.2, 17.5 over last three months), he’s really not doing himself very many favours.

The culprit for his troubles at the plate? A combination of all of the vices that typically catch up to young stars, really.

The 21-year-old may well be pressing at the plate right now, making mostly weak contact (he owns a whopping 21.4 percent pop-up rate) while continually grounding the ball into oblivion (season-high 57.9 percent ground ball rate in July). His 0-for-6 performance on Monday was the perfect example of this, as he grounded out weakly three times — and it would have been four if the first didn’t result in a fielding error.

In short, it’s a whole lot of slippery slope for the O’s star, even if he’s still playing ridiculously fantastic defense on a daily basis.

That said, Baltimore will have to keep a close eye on whether any of these trends turn around because as talented as Machado may be, plate discipline trends have a tendency to quickly spiral out of control into mechanical issues — just ask the Chicago Cubs and Starlin Castro.

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