The Baltimore Orioles placed star third baseman Manny Machado on the 15-day disabled list right before Opening Day. Machado continues to rehab from a knee injury that he suffered late last season against the Tampa Bay Rays. Everyone in Baltimore knows how much the Orioles miss Machado’s defense, but what he brings to the O’s lineup may be even more important.
Baltimore struggled to score runs against the Boston Red Sox in their last series. The Orioles combined to score seven runs over three games and four of those runs were off of Nelson Cruz two-run homers. Overall the team didn’t hit very well, and a lot of that has to do with how the lineup was constructed.
Manny Machado hit .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs last season, including an American League leading 51 doubles. When Machado comes back don’t expect those kind of numbers right out of the gate, but Machado’s return will allow Buck Showalter to construct a lineup where everyone is hitting in their natural positions. Without Machado in the lineup batting second, Showalter is forced to put J.J. Hardy in his place. Hardy isn’t made out to be a No. 2 hitter; he knows it, Showalter knows it and the fans know it. But right now, that’s the best option the Orioles have.
Historically a No. 2 hitter is someone who is a high-contact hitter, reaches base a lot, can drive the ball, has the ability to move runners over by placing the ball in certain areas of the field and is someone the manager trusts to handle the bat. J.J. Hardy, as good as he is, is none of those things.
Hardy is much-better suited in the No. 6 or No. 7 slot in the lineup. He doesn’t hit for a very high average, but he hits for power and pulls the ball religiously. While those traits make him ideal to drive runners home with extra-base hits, they certainly don’t make him a stereotypical No. 2 hitter.
Machado, on the other hand, is everything a No. 2 hitter should be. He’s able to use all parts of the field, he has good patience at the plate, he’s fast enough to break-up double plays and lay down bunts but he comes with more power than a lot of team’s No. 2 hitters.
Inserting Machado back into the No. 2 slot in the Orioles’ lineup will make a night and day difference to help spark the Baltimore offense.