ANAHEIM, Calif. - As the Orioles begin a six-game West Coast road trip tonight, shortstop Manny Machado continues to be one of baseball's best hitters.
Machado is batting .361/.448/.676 with seven doubles, nine homers, 22 RBIs and an OPS of 1.124.
We have just a small sample of one month to look at, but Machado has become one of those rare major league hitters that has drawn more walks (17) then he has struck out (16).
His walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1.06 is easily the best of his career. That number was 0.63 in 2015 (his previous best), 0.40 in 2016 and 0.43 in 2017. Machado's walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down. The 1.06 ratio ranks 11th in the majors through Sunday's games.
One reason Machado is drawing more walks is obvious - with few exceptions, he is the only consistently strong bat in the lineup right now. In fact, he has drawn four intentional walks to lead the American League.
But Machado has also cut back on the strikeouts. His K rate (percentage of plate appearances ending in a strikeout) was 15.6 percent in 2015, 17.2 percent in 2016, 16.7 percent last year and is 12.8 right now.
He's locked in and putting the ball in play, and his current .448 OBP is way above his career number of .333. Machado has hit six homers in his last 10 games and is batting .450 (18-for-40) over his past 11 games.
And, yes, this doesn't hurt his trade value, and if the Orioles' season continues down its current path, the club may once again be open to dealing its superstar shortstop.
Machado's name was thrown into instant speculation yesterday when it was announced that young Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager would be lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery. Seager's injury, coupled with the Dodgers' poor start, could find the team aiming high to replace Seager. Machado would be aiming high.
The Dodgers have a farm system ranked No. 8 by Baseball America that features five top 100 prospects headed by right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler, who is No. 13. He began the year with an ERA of 2.08 in three starts at Triple-A and now has made two starts for Los Angeles, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
Other top 100 prospects for the Dodgers, as ranked by BA, include outfielder Alex Verdugo (No. 33), catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 36), right-handed pitcher Mitchell White (No. 65) and outfielder Yusniel Diaz (No. 100).
If the Dodgers want an up-close look at Machado, they won't have far to go over the next three days. Just get on the 405 and head south and he'll be playing right there.
Questions and more questions: Meanwhile, for a team that is 12 games under .500 and so far out of first place already, there is some intrigue coming up in this series with the Angels.
For instance, we'll find out tonight if Chris Davis gets the start after sitting out the last two games in Baltimore. Has he made any adjustments to help jump-start his season?
Mark Trumbo is expected to be activated today and this is 2018 opening day for him. Trumbo hit just .234/.289/.397 with 23 homers and 65 RBIs last season. Will he begin to look more like the player that led the majors with 47 home runs in 2016?
By the way, it's a homecoming for Trumbo tonight. He is from Anaheim and played high school ball about 10 minutes from Angel Stadium. He was drafted by the Angels and played for them from 2010 to 2013.
Darren O'Day served as the closer Sunday when the Orioles won over Detroit. Is O'Day going to get more chances to close now or was there no changing of the guard in the ninth inning that afternoon?
Alex Cobb makes his fourth start for the Orioles tonight. He is 0-3 with an ERA of 13.11. He's allowed 30 hits and a .484 batting average in 11 2/3 innings. Does his season begin to take a turn for the better tonight?
So, yeah, a few questions will begin to get answers tonight at Angel Stadium, where the home team is suddenly struggling.
After getting off to a hot start at the plate, the Angels are struggling mostly on offense right now, as they have lost four in a row, scoring just seven runs and nine of 12 games. Since their 13-3 start, they are 3-9 for an overall 16-12 record.
The Angels have recorded six or fewer hits in 10 of their past 12 games and scored more than four runs just one time in the last 12 games.
They have faced a strong run of opponent starting pitchers. The last seven starting pitchers faced: Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, Johnny Cueto and CC Sabathia.
On the farm: While Single-A Delmarva and Frederick were off last night, the O's organization's top two clubs took to the field.
Durham beat Triple-A Norfolk 4-2 as the Tides fall to 11-10. Starter Yefry Ramirez allowed three runs over six innings and is 1-2 with an ERA of 5.32. Over the last 12 games, Norfolk starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.83.
The Orioles wanted lefty reliever Tanner Scott to pitch in back-to-back games and he has now done that for the Tides with scoreless innings Sunday and Monday. In eight innings for the year, he has not allowed a run with three walks and 10 strikeouts. Michael Saunders had a two-run double, but is batting just .179 at Norfolk.
Double-A Bowie lost 6-2 at Erie. The Baysox have lost four in a row to fall to 11-11. Losing pitcher Luis Ysla went two innings, allowing five hits and four runs (one earned). Corban Joseph had two hits and is batting .333. Ademar Rifaela had two hits and is batting .347.
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