Because I can’t just be happy with a 21-year old superstar, I decided to dig into Manny Machado’s walk rate today.
When I was trying to figure out WHY he walks so rarely (His 3.7% BB-Rate is 7th lowest among 161 qualifiers), I noticed that the numbers just don’t add up.
Let’s look at the basic skills:
1) Machado doesn’t really chase that many bad pitches. He chases around 30% of pitches out of the strike zone, which puts him squarely in the middle of the pack. Adam Jones is third-worst in the majors with a 44% chase rate. Nate McLouth is 2nd best, with merely a 20% chase rate.
2) Machado doesn’t swing and miss all that much. His 80% contact rate on swings is squarely in the middle of the pack. Chris Davis only makes contact 71% of the time (12th worst in the league). Nate McLouth makes contact 91% of the time (10th best).
3) Machado does see a few more strikes than average, and players who see more balls in the strike zone tend to walk less often. 48% of pitches thrown to Machado this year were strikes, which is 17th highest in the majors. McLouth sees even more, at over 50%, which is why his walk rate isn’t off the charts despite his fantastic strike zone recognition and contact rate. Pitchers are afraid to challenge Chris Davis, so he only sees 40% of pitches in the strike zone, which is 13th lowest in the majors.
All three of those statistics have extremely high correlations with BB-rates, so why does Machado have a remarkably low BB-rate when he’s so unremarkable in the major skills that influence BB-rate?
I THINK the answer is that it’s mostly just random variation, and that if Machado keeps doing what he’s doing, he will walk more, even if pitchers keep challenging him and throw strikes at the same rate
I did a simple linear regression of those three components on BB% for the 161 qualifiers this year, and the R-squared is 70% and all three variables are significant at a 95% confidence interval.
The two players who are most underperforming their components are Michael Bourn and Carlos Beltran – both of whom have walk rates this year of nearly half their recent trend. I expect both of them to see improved walk rates in the second half.
Machado is the third biggest outlier to the downside, and based on the regression, his BB-rate should be a slightly-below average 6.5% instead of nearly the lowest in the league.
No other Oriole regular is significantly underperforming or overperforming based on this metric.
I do expect Machado to regress at least slightly in a few other areas, but I feel better knowing that he has ~30 points of OBP just hiding in his peripherals.