One of the great storylines of 2013 has been the play of Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. A defensive wizard playing every day and hitting at the top of a playoff team’s lineup, Machado showed that he was one of baseball’s top prospects for good reason.
Just 21-years old and still filling out, Machado lacks the home run pop of his youthful contemporaries Mike Trout and Bryce Harper but, for most of the year, the story was his doubles. Machado was on a near-record pace, clubbing the second most doubles in the first half of a season with 39 at the break (albeit in many more plate appearances).
Baseball’s defensive spectrum is one of great little things in baseball, built partly on conventional wisdom and lore mixed with plain old common sense. The defensive spectrum works under the idea that once a player lands on a position, he can generally go down but not up. A second baseman is unlikely to become a shortstop and a left fielder probably won’t make much of a center fielder.
The common defensive hierarchy looks something like this: P-C-SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B-DH. There are different ways to conceive it but it all shakes out the same. The positional adjustment portion of Wins Above Replacement follows this model as well.
It is insightful for its simplicity – a shortstop can slide over and handle first base duties without much stress while your average left fielder couldn’t handle a sudden second base assignment.
Manny Machado is a shortstop. He says so himself in no uncertain terms. Except for one tiny detail: since his call-up last July, Manny Machado has played just about every possible inning as the Baltimore Orioles third baseman. In that time, Machado has asserted himself as one of the premier defensive third baseman in the game – to say nothing of his offense which, at just 21, is setting records as he raps doubles at an uncommon rate.
Machado is in the midst of proving the idea of the defensive spectrum definitively true. A shortstop moved to third in (or even before) his prime vacuums up grounders and displays uncanny arm strength, pacing the league in highlight plays and advanced defensive metrics. Getting Blanked spoke with Manny Machado about adjusting his clock, learning from the best, and the most important part of playing defense.
I got to thinking of this question Sunday afternoon, when I saw loads of hype over a Manny Machado play at third base against the Yankees. The inevitable comparisons to Brooks Robinson piled after this one: “You’re gonna see that one for a few years!” Really, Gary Thorne? It was a great throw — somewhere around 150 feet, according to the SportsCenter highlight — and Machado has obviously become a great third baseman. But I have a hard time putting this specific play in any pantheon wider than, say, one of the top plays of the day.
I think the issue, for me, is one of novelty. Blame the 162 games season — with 2,420 games and some 131,220 outs (give or take, depending on extra innings and such) total — almost every play will have a little overlap with something else we’ve seen elsewhere. But Machado’s play, for example, is basically this playEvan Longoria made against Machado earlier this year without the bobble.
Forgive us for coming at you so late in the day, but the Getting Blanked podcast is here. We talked about the struggling Los Angels of Anaheim and the death of Scioscialism, and the great Bryce Harper-Mike Trout-Manny Machado discussion. Hit us up with your earholes.
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Manny Machado is rather ridiculous. He’s good at baseball, even though he’s playing out of position and learning on the fly while not yet 21-years old. Last night, in the ninth inning of a one-run game, Manny Machado did what you see above. He made a ridiculous play in a very important moment of the game.
Judging by the super slo-mo replay at the end of this clip, he made that play by the narrowest of margins, thanks in no small part to a set of very large fingers. The ability/confidence to adjust the ball in his hand as he throws it, then tossing a strike to first to nail the very speedy Desmond Jennings, is pretty sweet indeed.
If the whole “star infielder” thing doesn’t work out, maybe Manny can find a second career as a splitter-throwing reliever? He has a hose and would be Miami Bruce Sutter with that forkball grip. Think it over, Manny. Just keep it in your back pocket, you know?
Manny Machado turned 20-years-old in July. Less than two months later, he was playing an integral role for the Baltimore Orioles, a Major League Baseball team in the midst of a pennant chase.
Last night, with first place in the American League East on the line and the score tied 2-2 with the Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the ninth inning, Evan Longoria hit a slow roller up the third base line. Rich Thompson, on second base at the time, was running as Jim Johnson’s 3-2 pitch came to the plate. In fact, he reached third base just as Machado was picking up the squibbler from Longoria.
Craig Kimbrel is so much better at his job than we are at ours, we dedicate the beginning of our show to his amazingness. Then we discuss Bobby V’s antics, the scary Brandon McCarthy liner and Shelby Miller’s debut.
Then, somehow, we talk with Manny Machado of the Baltimore Oriole. He’s very young but very patient. Well, relatively.
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