This was not a banner year for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.
He pressed at the plate in the first half, and struggled in September after returning to form in July and August. His .259 average was a career worst and his .310 on-base percentage represented his lowest mark since his debut season in 2012.
His baserunning was particularly head-scratching at times and defensive metrics weren’t particularly kind to Machado. His six defensive runs saved at third base tied for his lowest career mark and paled to the 35 defensive runs saved he had in 2013.
But no one can tell me there is a better defensive third baseman in the American League right now. And I could make the argument that Machado’s defense was at least close to what it was in 2013; you have to remember that he didn’t have a healthy J.J. Hardy next to him for much of this year, and he may have felt a little more pressure to make every play.
His 14 errors committed were the second highest of his career, but in the only season he had more, he won the AL Gold Glove (19 errors at third in 2015).
And he should win the award again – his third – in 2017.
On Thursday it was announced he was one of three finalists at the AL hot corner, along with Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.
I’ve watched Longoria play for a long time now, and the two-time Gold Glover is an outstanding all-around player and an exceptionally smooth defender. He led AL third basemen this year with 11 runs saved – nearly twice as many Machado.
But if you read this site religiously, you know I don’t think much of advanced defensive metrics. There are way too many variables, and I’ve yet to find one I trust to paint the full picture (Machado’s 1.0 Defensive WAR was slightly below Longoria’s 1.3, for what it’s worth).
Longoria plays a tremendous third base for a 32-year-old, but he can no longer do what the 25-year-old Machado produces on a nightly basis.
I haven’t seen Ramirez play third much, and he probably should win the Silver Slugger at the position, given the fantastic year he had at the plate. But he started 86 games at the hot corner this year, and that’s not enough, in my opinion, to take the award away from Machado (or Longoria).
So, pencil in Machado for his third Gold Glove – he certainly deserves it.
Davis gets no defensive love
We all know this was another disastrous offensive year for first baseman Chris Davis. And according to defensive metrics, Davis had a rough one in the field, too. He had a negative 1.3 defensive WAR and a negative 5 defensive runs saved.
Poppycock, I say.
Davis played a really strong first base, specifically the way he scooped throws from the left side of the infield. It became more apparent when Tim Beckham took over at shortstop. Davis had to play first base like a hockey goalie with Beckham’s strong but erratic arm throwing missiles from deep in the hole.
Davis was a Gold Glove finalist last year, but was passed over this year in favor of Eric Hosmer, Mitch Moreland and Carlos Santana.
Hosmer and Moreland both have strong defensive reputations, but Santana has been an offensive-first player dating back to his catching days.
I have no idea how much Santana has improved as a first baseman (he had a 0 Defensive WAR this year), but I do know that this year Davis was as good as he was in 2016, and may have been better given the additional challenge of Beckham.
Showalter’s moving on up
Buck Showalter is the dean of American League East managers now that Joe Girardi is not being retained by the New York Yankees, ending a decade in the Bronx.
Only three managers in all of baseball have been with their current teams longer than Showalter, who was hired in Aug. 2010. Los Angeles Angels skipper Mike Scioscia is the longest tenured manager followed by San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy and Kansas City’s Ned Yost, who was hired a couple months before Showalter.
I’ve written this before, but it’s pretty amazing that Showalter, who had the reputation of not staying in one place particularly long, is now one of the most rooted managers in the game. That’s a credit to him, and to management for valuing continuity.
As for Girardi, I think he is among the best in baseball. I’d hire him in a nanosecond if I had an opening. I can’t imagine he’ll be out of the game for long.