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Knee injuries turned 2014 into a lost season for the Orioles' Manny Machado

Injuries on the front-end and back-end of Manny Machado's season cost him an opportunity to build upon his success from 2013. Camden Chat reviews his 2014 season.

Machado glances toward a return for Spring Training
Machado glances toward a return for Spring Training
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It's probably safe to assume that 2014 will not go down as one of the better years for the Orioles budding third baseman.  A knee injury cost Machado all of of spring training and a decent chunk of the early season.  He returned for a short period before a similar knee injury (different leg) ended his year before the playoffs began.

Machado's 2013 season was cut slightly short by a full ligament tear in his left knee.  He subsequently had surgery and was on the shelf throughout the entirety of the Oriole's 2014 spring training.  Manny finally made his 2014 debut on May 1st against the Pittsburgh Pirates (and went 0-5).  For most of May, Machado clearly looked rusty at the plate, posting a meager .556 OPS with limited power.  His ground ball rate took a jump and he struggled to make contact.  Fastballs hurt him the most - his ISO against the pitch was .059 in May.

Once he broke out into the warmer months, however, Machado's bat took a huge jump forward.  He started by making better contact on the fastball and his pitch recognition quickly recovered.  Although his strikeout rate surged from 15 percent in May to 20 percent in June, his OPS jumped to .774 and he moved above average in runs created.

By the time July rolled around, Machado was clicking on all cylinders.  He posted OPS of .921 in July and .940 in August with exceptional power.  His .232 ISO in July was nearly 80 points over his career average.  It's highly likely a HR/FB% of 15% is unsustainable in the long run, but it was certainly beneficial to the Orioles as they moved toward a division title.  By August, Machado was cruising toward career highs in OBP and OPS.  He didn't match the power numbers from July, but he was close.

Unfortunately, Manny would make it to just 82 games before suffering a similar injury in his right knee while swinging the bat.  It was later announced Machado would have surgery and finish the season on the DL alongside Matt Wieters.

The 2014 wasn't a completely lost season.  True, injuries cost him time on both ends of the year and true, there was that bat fling incident (which we're not going to talk about), but when his bat returned, it came back with a fury.  At 2.5 WAR (per Fangraphs), he tied for 5th on the Orioles with Nick Markakis even though he appeared in just 82 games.  He certainly made a contribution, both at the plate and in the field - a contribution that certainly helped the Orioles succeed in the regular season.  Manny's defense wasn't quite what we were accustomed to from 2013, but it was still solid and definitely nothing to worry about.

The real question going forward is whether or not his play or his injuries will define his career.  He's in just his third season (he won't even turn 23 until right around the All-Star break in 2015!), but he's already suffered two fairly severe knee injuries.  He's expected to be good to go for Spring Training 2015 and he seemed fine with playing daily in 2014, but the concern is still there.  All in all, if Machado continues to return, he should continue to lead the Orioles (alongside J.J. Hardy) to one of the better infields in baseball.