Machado showed us what he can do with a glove last season, but we didn't know that he could develop into one of the top hitters in the game so quickly. I mean, he just turned 21 earlier this month, so we expected some growing pains. Maybe he'd hit around .250 with about 20 homers. We were wrong. In his first full major league season, Machado is hitting .310/.337/.470 with seven homers and 45 RBIs. Oh, and he has 39 doubles and is chasing Earl Webb's 82-year-old single-season doubles record of 67. He's also taken his defense to another level, as if that was possible after his debut last year. He leads the majors on defensive WAR (2.7), total zone runs among third baseman (19), range factor per game (3.11) and double plays turned by a third baseman (24). Basically, he gets to everything. And he even makes plays on balls that go off the heel of his glove, like the play he made two weekends ago at Yankee Stadium that might be the defensive play of the year. As much as Machado makes everything he does look easy -- and his is an incredible talent -- he is constantly thinking about his approach at the plate or his positioning in the field. Showalter said he likes Machado's imagination. Showalter thought long and hard before putting Machado at the No. 2 hole to open the season. He wanted to avoid Machado being the focus of the top of the lineup. So much for that. Even more impressive about Machado is that he has played in every game this season and leads the AL in at bats and plate appearances. For the Orioles, that's a good thing, because they want Machado used to the grind of a full big league season. That will be a test because Machado will have to be at his best down the stretch for the Orioles to be successful both physically and mentally. But so far he's been consistent. Other than seeing whether Machado can break Webb's record, the only question is whether he can come up with a better defensive highlight than the ones he already has.
Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun