If you’re looking for bright spots in a disappointing season, look no further than the hot corner where Orioles third baseman Manny Machado continues to take on the look of a superstar in the making. After some unexpected early season defensive struggles, Machado has reclaimed his form in the field and taken on a new form in the batter’s box.
It’s fair to say that Machado is having one of the best offensive seasons a young Orioles player has ever had. To make that kind of statement, we need to consider those who came before him. Here’s a look at six young Orioles who had outstanding seasons at the plate by age 23 (Machado turned 23 on July 6.)
Cal Ripken, 1983, age 22
It’s easy to have a short memory in regard to the Iron Man, remembering foremost the unforgettable moments he provided as his career wound down. To do so, however, is to forget how truly great he was at the outset of his career. Ripken posted three impressive offensive seasons by age 23, with 1983 and 1984 ranking as two of the best by any young Orioles player. Ripken posted a .318/.371/.517 slash line with 27 home runs, 102 RBIs, 211 hits, 121 runs, 47 doubles and 58 walks for the World Series Champions in 1983. He struck out 97 times in 726 plate appearances. Ripken had league-leading totals in games, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, hits, and doubles.
Boog Powell, 1964, age 22
Boog Powell hit far-and-away the most home runs by any Orioles player age 23 or younger. Machado will fare well on that list by season’s end. Powell’s 39 homers in 1964 were the most of his career despite the fact that he played in only 134 games. He posted a league-best .606 slugging percentage that season. Powell was hardly an all-or-nothing batter as evidenced by his .290/.399/.606 slash line. His power, combined with his .399 on-base percentage, fueled a 1.005 OPS. He had 99 RBIs and walked 76 times.
Eddie Murray, 1979, age 23
Like Ripken, Eddie Murray had multiple great seasons prior to age 23. In 1979, he posted a .295/.369/.475 slash line with 25 home runs and 99 RBIs. They called him Steady Eddie for a reason. Murray was a near-lock for 20 home runs most seasons, doing it 16 times in his career, had 25 or more home runs a dozen times and topped 30 long balls five times. That’s how you get to 500. He walked 72 times, struck out 78 times, and scored 90 runs.
Paul Blair, 1967, age 23
It’s not just about power. Paul Blair had 11 longballs in 1967 but often found his way on base and into scoring position. Blair had a .293/.353./.446 slash line, stroked 27 doubles and led the league with a dozen triples.
Bobby Grich, 1972, age 23
Like Blair before him, Bobby Grich posted an outstanding offensive season without the power display of some of the greatest young Orioles batters. Grich went deep a dozen times and scored 66 runs. He stayed out of the double play, grounding into only eight in 1972, and earned his way on to base the hard way, hit by pitches seven times. Grich stole 13 bases and had 21 doubles. He finished the season with a .278/.358/.415 slash line.
Nick Markakis, 2007, age 23
Nick Markakis created high expectations among Orioles fans early in his career, and for good reason. Markakis posted a .300/.362/.485 slash line in 2007 with 23 home runs and 112 RBIs while playing in all but one game that season. Markakis scored 97 runs and stole 18 bases, narrowly missing becoming the fifth Orioles player with a 20-20 season and the first since Brady Anderson in 1999. He mixed in 43 doubles among his 191 hits. After having a three-homer game his rookie season in 2006 and totaling back-to-back 20 home run seasons in 2007 and 2008, Markakis never again reached 20 home runs as an Oriole.
Which of these seasons was the best? And where might Machado rank on this list at season’s end? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.