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Manny Machado’s Weird Contact Rate


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Manny Machado has had a large and uncharacteristic decrease in frequency for launch angles between -25 and -10 degrees and 20 and 30 degrees. As a result, his distribution of exit velocity has become distorted. There appear to be a significant drop in the frequency of both his low value and middle value batted balls, which would likely result in a dramatic reduction in his singles rate. Meanwhile, his high end batted balls appear to have remained constant.

As a result, you see a continued source of in game power, but a large reduction in singles and batting average. This pattern is not consistent with an attempt to hit the ball into the air more often. Or rather, if he were trying to hit the ball into the air, he is clearly failing to do so, judging by the dramatic reduction in batted balls between 20 and 30 degrees. He’s hitting fewer balls into the air, but he has maintained a high exit velocity on these balls and as a result has maintained his high quality contact.

These changes, overall, appear like random variation to me. Perhaps the extreme edges of variation, maybe a worst case scenario. But nothing here seems to suggest Manny Machado has lost any raw skill, or that he is even missing the ball by very much. Rather, his launch angles just happened to have fallen into a weird distribution to start the season. This seems to be statistical variation at its finest.

That said, Machado’s xStats point towards a tinge of bad luck as well. His xStats to date suggest production much closer to his career norms.

There may be psychological components to what is going on with Machado, I can’t speak to that. Buck Showalter has stated he feels Machado’s slump may be more mental than physical. Several Orioles coaches and other MLB scouts seem to agree with that general sentiment. I’m not an expert on Machado’s mechanics (or any mechanics for that matter), but I don’t see a major problem with my own eyes.

Machado’s plate discipline doesn’t appear to have varied much, although his swinging strike rate has gone up to 12%. Pitchers are throwing him a few more sliders, and he appears to be handling sliders exceptionally poorly, but otherwise his pitch mix appears to be about the same. 

 

http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/machados-weird-contact/

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He is not using the entire field like he has in the past.  He is pulling off everything and either ahead of the off speed stuff and behind the fastball.  When you are behind you try to catch up and making contact behind the ball which causes more pop ups if you even hit it.

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