Manny Machado, the best third baseman in baseball, who signed a massive 11-year, $350 million extension with the San Diego Padres ahead of the 2023 season, has struggled this season.
Machado had a breakout season offensively in 2022, hitting .298 .366 .531 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) with 32 home runs, 102 RBIs, a wRC+ (adjusted run production) of 152 and a fWAR (wins above replacement) of 7.4, and finishing second in NL MVP voting. Machado, who could have exercised his opt-out after the 2023 season, showed his intent to finish his career in San Diego by agreeing to a massive extension with the Padres on February 27.먹튀검증
However, more than a quarter of the way through the full season, Machado has struggled at the plate, hitting just .231-.282-.372 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) with five home runs, 19 RBI, and a wRC+ of 81, which is below league average. He even landed on the disabled list on May 16 with a dune bugger fracture. The long slump, coupled with his injuries, has made home fans increasingly cynical about Machado.
Machado’s right hand was stronger against right-handed pitchers. Why is he weaker against righties this year?
A big part of Machado’s stellar hitting performance last season, which saw him finish second in MVP voting, was his strength against right-handed pitching, with an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 0.915 against righties that was significantly higher than his OPS against lefties (0.855).
However, this season, unlike last year, he has struggled to generate hits against right-handed pitchers, even against pitches in the middle of the plate. The percentage of balls with an ideal launch angle (8 to 32 degrees) against right-handers is also at a career low of 25 percent (career average is 34 percent), which shows his weakness against right-handers, unlike last season.
With a dramatic decrease in pitches with ideal launch angles, Machado is hitting just .539 against right-handers this season, and his inability to respond to right-handers’ 95+ mph fastballs has been a major factor in his early-season slump.
The recurring ‘WBC-odd year jinx’… When will Machado rebound?
Six years ago, in 2017, Machado competed in the 2017 WBC for the Dominican Republic, where he suffered through one of the worst slumps of his career, posting a .741 OPS in the first half of the season, eventually finishing with a career-low .782 OPS and a wRC+ of 102. The early-season struggles have been repeated this season, as the WBC returns for the first time in six years.
Additionally, Machado has been jinxed since the 2017 season by having a bad year in an odd numbered year and a good year in an even numbered year, which makes it difficult to expect a rebound this season. Meanwhile, the team is desperate for Machado to bounce back, as the Padres’ winning percentage has dropped to .447 and the gap between them and the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers has grown to 7.5 games.
To make matters worse, Machado was diagnosed with a microfracture in his palm after being hit by a pitch, landing him on the disabled list for the first time in nine years. For now, Kim Ha-seong, an all-around infielder with one of the best defenses in the league, is filling in for Machado. In the four games he’s started at third base since Machado’s injury, he’s been solid at the plate, recording a hit in each game.
Will Machado be able to regain his form once he returns from injury and allay the fears of the club and fans? It will be interesting to see if Kim, who is likely to be the starting third baseman for the foreseeable future, can fill the void left by Machado and solidify his position as an offensive center fielder.