Real or not? Manny Machado should be better, MLB's filthiest pitch of the year

Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports

It's not that Manny Machado has been terrible. I mean, he has 10 home runs, takes his walks and plays good defense. It's hard to complain about a player on pace for 36 home runs and 90 RBIs. But let's complain! He's 44 games into his season and hitting .218 with a below-average .308 OBP. Machado is supposed to be one of the game's elite stars, yet he ranks 106th out of 108 qualified regulars in wOBA. His recent skid -- he has hit .183 with four RBIs in his past 14 games -- coincides with the Baltimore Orioles' own skid. Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins dropped them to 3-10 in their past 13 games.

Machado is clearly in a funk, one of those stretches when you're not seeing the ball, guessing wrong or flailing at pitches off the plate. He had a terrible at-bat in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss to Ervin Santana, swinging at three pitches out of the zone, going down on a pitch that bounced a foot in front of home plate. Now, we're still early in the season, and a weeklong hot stretch could pull his numbers back up to the triple-slash line we're used to seeing from him, but I noticed even Orioles fans are a bit frustrated. Some tweeted about Machado, 24, not running out a grounder.

Allow me a "get off my lawn" moment here and a theory about Machado.

We all know the direction of the game in recent years: more strikeouts, more home runs, fewer singles. As Joe Sheehan just wrote in his newsletter, back in 1995 we saw strikeouts outnumber singles for the first time, with a difference of 313. Last season the difference was 11,443. This year, the projected pace is more than 13,000 more strikeouts than singles. Does that sound insane? It's a little insane. I'm with Joe: I don't think it's good for the game, if only because it's a less interesting game with less variety in the types of action that occur. That's another column.

Back to Machado. Everyone wants to hit home runs. Machado, I think, is trying to hit home runs every time up. Remember his first full season in 2013? He began that season at 20 years old and was spraying doubles all over the place. At the All-Star break, he was hitting .310 with 39 doubles. The league caught up to him in the second half, but given his age and ability to make hard contact, I saw a guy who could develop into another Edgar Martinez. Maybe not with Martinez's plate discipline, but he had the same hand-eye coordination and ability to go foul pole to foul pole, and to hit .300 with a ton of doubles and 25-plus home runs as he matured.

The home runs came, but where are the doubles? Where is the .300 average? It seems he's trying to hit everything out to left field, at least this season. He was less pull-happy in 2016, when 11 of his 37 home runs were hit to the right of center field:

In 2013, Machado's swing-and-miss rate was 19.9 percent. In 2017, it's 26.3 percent. His strikeout rate is the highest of his career. A player of his talent shouldn't be going backward in these areas. Note that after hitting .318 in the first half of 2016, he slipped to .266 in the second half. Machado is a victim of today's style of play. He should be better, and in his case, maybe fewer home runs would produce better results.

Pitch of the day ... or season. In that same game, Twins starter Jose Berrios threw this optical illusion of a curveball:

That first curve ... good lord almighty. Somehow, the Orioles still hit three home runs off him. Great sweep for the Twins, though. Keep an eye on Max Kepler, who is one of those underrated players who does a little bit of everything. He's hitting .270/.362/.468, is a plus defender in right field and runs the bases well.

Waiting on a Sonny day. Sonny Gray crushed the Marlins, going seven innings with 10-plus K's for just the second time in his career:

Let's hope this wasn't just a "he faced the Marlins, who are terrible" kind of game and that Gray can get back to where he was in 2015. Of course, if he continues to pitch like this, he's going to be a hot trade target come July.

The nightly Rockies update. A seven-run third inning for the Colorado Rockies produced all the runs in a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies:

The key highlight there: A Carlos Gonzalez home run. Colorado has been been winning mostly without its slugging right fielder, but he has had eight hits in three games against the Phillies and is 13-for-28 in his past seven games. Trevor Story also returned to the lineup with a hit and two walks. (It was interesting to note that Ian Desmond didn't play any shortstop in Story's two-week absence, which suggests Desmond is really just a first baseman/outfielder now.) Anyway, the Rockies are now 7-2 on this road trip and will go for the four-game sweep of the Phillies on Thursday.

Quick thoughts ... The Seattle Mariners are falling apart, and it's never a good sign when your manager tells reporters, "We've got to pick up our intensity." After a 5-1 loss Wednesday to the Nationals, they've been outscored by 35 runs their past four games, the worst four-game differential in franchise history after a 34-run gap in the expansion season of 1977. They've scored one run five games in a row, and the Triple-A rotation has been getting hammered. ... Jacoby Ellsbury is headed to the disabled list after crashing into the wall. One potential out isn't worth crashing into the wall! The way Aaron Hicks has been playing, the Yankees won't be losing anything in the interim. ... Rare hiccup for Indians closer Cody Allen as the Reds scored twice in the ninth for a 4-3 win. ... What did Rangers righty Sam Dyson do to the baseball gods? His season from hell continues as he faced seven batters in Wednesday's seventh inning in Boston, and they all reached, on four hits (all soft) and three walks (two intentional). Yes, the old intentional walk backfired again as the Red Sox scored seven runs in the frame. It was Dyson's fifth loss, and he has faced 78 batters and recorded just five strikeouts. ... In that game, Chris Sale's double-digit strikeout streak ended at eight games in a row. ... The Mets keep finding new ways to lose. Down 6-5 to the Padres in the bottom of the ninth, they loaded the bases with none out. Two strikeouts (Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera) and a fly ball, and Brad Hand had escaped the jam. Brutal.