In Buck We Trust, but we still have questions sometimes.
There is no doubt that Manny Machado is ready for the majors. Already in this young season, he has once again proved himself invaluable defensively, even playing in a relatively new position for him at third base. Machado has made several outstanding plays — one memorable play in particular in Tampa in the bottom of the first, with Desmond Jennings on second and one out. Ben Zobrist hit a ground ball towards the hole on the left side, and with Jennings breaking from second, Machado was able to field the ball, tag the runner and fire the ball to first to get Zobrist out as well. It was an unusual and impressive double play, but something we have come to expect from Machado already in his young career. (Case in point: Manny’s pump-fake in a tie ballgame in the top of the 9th last September against the Rays)
The story has been a bit different at the plate. Like many young talents, Machado hit the ground running, but his production has slowed since then. Machado did not hit second in the lineup until this season, and he has hit second in each game so far including Monday afternoon’s game in Boston. So far this season, Manny has collected 5 hits in 26 at-bats (.192 BA) with 1 RBI. Yes, it is early in the season, but that type of production wouldn’t cut it for the year out of the number 2 spot. More importantly, in yesterday’s game alone, Manny stranded 4 runners on base. That’s more than anyone else in the lineup. Poor pitching has gotten most of the negative headlines so far this season, but over the home stand, the Orioles squandered many opportunities.
Buck Showalter is the type of manager who places faith in his players, and doesn’t jump the gun to make a change. However, if this experiment with Manny Machado hitting second doesn’t produce some positive results soon, it may be time to pull the plug. One can speculate that Buck is hopeful that this is serving as an excellent test for Machado, or that perhaps he will be seeing more fast balls in front of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, or whoever else may be batting 3rd on a given day. Buck has shuffled the lineup quite a bit, with Machado batting second being the only constant.
In Buck We Trust – with any luck, this will pay off!