Detroit Tigers’ Dixon Machado: Doubles Machine
By Andy Patton
Through seven games, Detroit Tigers second baseman Dixon Machado has hit six doubles. What has brought on this barrage of two-baggers?
With one week of baseball in the books, the Detroit Tigers are 3-4. Masterful pitching from Michael Fulmer and strong hitting from Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos has kept the Tigers in nearly every game this year, and faint whispers of optimism surround the team.
While Fulmer, Cabrera and Castellanos are expected to perform above average, one surprise so far this season has been the hitting of 26-year-old second baseman Dixon Machado.
Machado is currently slashing .300/.323/.500 with six doubles, four runs scored and seven RBI through 30 at-bats. For reference, in 166 at-bats last season Machado hit five doubles and had 11 RBI. So it’s fair to say this offensive output is unprecedented for Machado.
What’s Causing it?
While the sample size is obviously very small, there have been some considerable differences in the way Machado makes contact so far this season.
Machado posted a ground-ball rate over 50% in each of his first three big league seasons. So far in 2018, that number is down to 34.6%. His fly-ball rate is a sky-high 38.5%, more than 10% higher than last season. Additionally, Machado is striking the ball much, much harder this year. His hard-hit rate is 50% and his soft-hit rate is a shockingly low 7.7%, nearly three times lower than 2017.
So it’s no surprise that a hitter who is hitting many more fly balls and is hitting the ball much harder is seeing more success. Machado has embraced the ‘launch angle’ revolution that has swept major league baseball, boasting an average launch angle of 14.85 degrees, well over the 12.96 league average. His 93.3 mile per hour exit velocity is above the 88.9 mph league average as well.
A dose of reality
There are still some flaws in Machado’s game, however. His 3.2% walk rate is way too low. While he has cut out the strikeouts, a .323 on-base percentage accompanying a .300 average is not ideal. Until he can learn to draw a walk, he probably shouldn’t move to the top half of the lineup, even as long as he is stinging the ball. Likewise, his hard-hit rate and .346 BABIP are unsustainable, meaning some regression is coming for the young infielder.
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It’s hard to put too much stock in Machado hitting well across such a small sample size. However, improvements to his launch angle and more solid contact could be a sign of a more offensive Machado manning second base for the Detroit Tigers. He’ll need to continue hitting well to fend off Dawel Lugo at Triple-A Toledo this season. With a start like the one he’s had, that shouldn’t be a problem.