Manny Machado on Preparing for a Series

It’s quite possible that — as recently as last night, with the Orioles preparing to finish their series against the Brewers — that Manny Machado had no idea who’d be on the mound for the Twins this evening. That sort of knowledge, and the preparation that goes along with it, would have to wait until Baltimore was finished with Milwaukee. The young third baseman doesn’t like to look too far ahead. I learned that when I spoke to Machado earlier this season.

At the time of our conversation, the Orioles were in Boston to play the Red Sox. His club would be facing the White Sox next, and I was interested to know when Chicago — and, specifically, their pitchers — would begin entering Machado’s consciousness. Here’s what he had to say.

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Machado on preparing for a series: “I don’t really think ahead. I think it’s the same way for most of the guys in this clubhouse — you have to stay in the moment. Today we have to face Chris Sale, so why would we think about the White Sox coming up? We have to worry about one of the best pitchers in the game, and what we’re going to do against him. We just prepare for the guy we’re going to face tonight. We stay with our same routines in the cage, and on the field, as well.

“Every time you go into a series, you kind of want to know who the three or four starters are going to be, but that’s just right before the series starts. I don’t know who is pitching for Chicago yet. Once the series here is over, I’ll take a look to see who we’ve got coming. I’ll kind of prepare myself mentally and start creating my plan for that series.

“When you start thinking about it, the first question that comes to mind is, ‘Have I faced him before?’ You more or less know what he did to you last time. Then you watch some video to see what he did to you, visually, as opposed to just thinking about it. With the technology we have now, it’s easy to do that.

“You can’t look too deep, though, because you don’t know what a guy is going to do to you that day. For one thing, the video could be from last year. What Chris Sale did to you last year, or even a few months ago, might be different than how he’s pitching right now. You have an idea of what to expect, but until the game comes around, you don’t know for sure.

Manny Machado is more concerned with his own routine than the identity of tomorrow’s starter.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

“How much success you’ve had against a guy crosses your mind. I’m not going to lie. It crosses everyone’s mind. ‘Yeah, I hit good off this guy.’ Or: ‘This guy owns me.’ You want to try to keep it equal, though. You want to approach it like it’s just another guy, and go out there and try to get two or three hits and drive in runners if you get the opportunity. You try not to look too far past that, but it’s definitely in the back of your mind.

“Sometimes I do [visualize the pitcher on the mound]. Like I said, you watch the video and see what the guy likes to do, and you kind of create your workout and your game plan for that day. You take it to the cage, and then outside to BP. But again, you can’t put too much mind to it, because you really don’t know what’s
going to happen until that first at-bat, and you see how he’s attacking hitters. It can be a surprise. That’s the beauty of baseball.

“There are certain guys where you more or less know what they’re going to do. It’s a little easier with relievers, because they usually have their specialties, their pitches that they go to. But starters have to go six, seven innings, so they can’t do the same thing constantly. They mix it up more, they mix and match in different at-bats, as opposed to going with, say, just a fastball and slider. But realistically speaking, you have to go up there and try to stay with your plan, no matter what.

“Like I said earlier, you have to stay in the moment, stay with the pitcher who is going tonight. This game is about inches and short-term memory. You have to go out there and be yourself — do what you do every day. You don’t change. That’s some of the best advice anyone has ever given me. Stay with your same routine, no matter who’s pitching, whether you’re hot or if you’re struggling. Things will turn out better if you do that.

“Basically, I go out there with my plan, knowing that I studied the pitcher in front of me, and from there I’m not going to think. I’m going to just play the game. Once it’s over, I’ll move on to the next game and then to the next series.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Psychic... Powerless...
4 years ago

Great stuff, David!