Manny Machado was able to keep his head above water at the plate during his rookie season, posting a 98 OPS+ in 2012 despite barely being out of his teens and getting minimal at-bats above the A-Ball level. This year, Machado is crushing it. He's got a 136 OPS+, putting him in the same neighborhood as Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano and Pablo Sandoval. If he keeps raking like that, he'll hold the best OPS+ by a third-baseman during his age-20 season since Jimmie Foxx, who dabbled at the hot corner before settling in at first base.
How has Machado done it? Here's a closer look at his marked offensive improvement.
- Machado's going after fewer junk pitches off the plate, lowering his chase rate from 31% as a rookie to 23% in 2013. That's well below the 27% big league average this season. Manny has cut his chase rate against low pitches in half, from 32% to 16%.
Machado's swing rate by pitch location, 2012
Machado's swing rate by pitch location, 2013
- Machado hasn't just shortened his strike zone -- he has also connected much more often. As a rookie, his miss rate (25%) was higher than the MLB average (22%). But this season, he has whiffed just 17%. His biggest gain has come on inside pitches, with his miss rate falling from 24% to just 10%.
Machado's contact rate by pitch location, 2012
Machado's contact rate by pitch location, 2013
- That extra contact on inside pitches has been loud. Machado has clubbed five homers and slugged .645 against inner-third offerings, which is 230 points above the MLB average (.415). Last year, he hit two homers and slugged .406.