The most perplexing player in baseball this year? I nominate Manny Machado.
Baltimore's All-Star third baseman still ranks among the league leaders with 12 home runs, on pace to approach the 35 and 37 that he hit in 2015 and '16, respectively. But his overall offensive production has nosedived: He’s hitting a mere .212/.296/.442, a line that puts him in the same company this season with forgettables like Arizona's Yasmany Tomas and Houston's Yuli Gurriel. Much of the problem can be traced to one simple category: line-drive rate. After producing a healthy 20% mark last season, Machado has plummeted to the lowest line-drive rate in all of baseball this year.
Given that Machado has actually made more hard contact in 2017 than he did in '16, that line-drive letdown looks like a screaming fluke. Yes, he’s also swinging and missing (and striking out) more often than ever before. But even if that whiffier trend holds, he’s not going to loiter around the Mendoza Line much longer. If you’re an Orioles fan, don’t fret: Sunnier skies are on the way.