Manny Machado’s first year with the Padres was an overall success.
When the San Diego Padres made Manny Machado (briefly) the highest-paid free agent in North American sports history, they had high expectations for the four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover. Padres fans, too, had high hopes for such a star-studded player before which the Padres had never had. For $30 million a year, Machado will be in San Diego for at least another four seasons and nine if he chooses not to opt out.
The first season of the Manny Machado experience in San Diego has been an overall success on and off the field.
On the field
Machado certainly did not have a career year by any stretch, and it would’ve been unrealistic to expect such, going from the hitter-friendly Camden Yards in Baltimore to spacious Petco Park for 81 of his games. However, he didn’t tank his numbers either.
Going into the 2019 season, his career averages (starting his first full season in 2013) were a .283 average, 28 home runs, a .826 OPS and 122 OPS+. This year, with less than a week left in the season, he is batting .252 with 30 home runs, a .783 OPS and 106 OPS+. Most of these numbers are far from career lows (he had a .746 OPS, a 102 OPS+, with 14 home runs in 156 games for Baltimore in 2013).
MANNY MACHADO GOES BOOM!
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) June 4, 2019
There is something to be said about adjusting to life on the opposite coast of the country, in a new league with a new home ballpark, new teammates and unfamiliar opponents. There should be some grace given in that period, even with a player as uber-talented as Machado.
Despite all that, he has played basically up to par with his career averages, save for a high strikeout rate that, if it does not go down, will become his new career-high (19.5%). That being said, his 9.8 percent walk rate is also one-tenth of a percent away from a career-high as well.
Machado has come through multiple times in the clutch this season. He is batting .277 with a .903 OPS with runners in scoring position as well as an astronomical 1.214 OPS with the bases loaded.
His offensive season has been far from perfect, but he has been an upgrade over anything the Padres have had at third base in a long time. His 3.0 WAR (Baseball-Reference) is the highest for a Padres’ third baseman since Chase Headley’s 2013 campaign.
He is making more hard contact (43 percent) than he ever has while his BABIP is near a career low at .271. This suggests even better things could be coming in 2020.
Defensively, Machado lived up to the almost impossible hype. He is exactly as advertised with the glove and his arm. He is at +6 Defensive Runs Saved at third base, better than the likes of MVP candidate Anthony Rendon and two shy of rival Nolan Arenado.
An underappreciated part of Machado’s game is his availability. He has remained healthy enough to be in the lineup just about every day this season and has played in 152 of the possible 157 games thus far.
Manny from foul territory…sheesh 💪
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) April 13, 2019
Off the Field
Someone of Manny Machado’s name brand coming to the San Diego Padres is a big deal. Even if he did not have a career year, the spotlight was on Manny and the Padres a lot more this year than Friar fans are used to.
Machado came into San Diego with a bit of a reputation, one that is hard to change, no matter how good he has been for the Padres clubhouse.
From the national audience’s perspective, Machado has done very little to throw gas on the fire of that negative reputation. Sure, he has had his arguments and even a suspension, but so has guys like Bryce Harper, Amir Garrett and Yasiel Puig. The difference is everyone can’t wait for Machado to show even the slightest amount of anger or immaturity, and they jump all over him.
Machado certainly has done more good than bad this year, and his reputation in San Diego is nearly sparkling. How could you not love a guy who had a nationally-covered “feud” with Atlanta Braves mascot “Blooper”?
Manny Machado pulls a fast one on Blooper. pic.twitter.com/JUdz9Mra2f
— Subscribe to Cut4 on YouTube!!!! (@Cut4) April 29, 2019
This was of course after Blooper attempted to scam Machado out of his freshly minted $300 million contract by turning an autograph into a signature on a check.
Plus, in my observations, Machado has always taken time for autographs, especially for kids. He is very aware of his high profile and does a good job taking time to make a kid’s day. When in Seattle for the exhibition games before the season, I saw him give a boy one of his game-used bats in response to the kid complimenting Machado’s sunglasses.
People are beginning to notice that Machado is not this dirty, lazy villain the media has made him out to be.
Manny Machado just gave a young @Padres fan near me his game used bat. The kid was practically in tears. He’s still smiling. Every time I look over there=😁😁.That’s how you grow the game. Yeah, Machado’s a “villain” LOL spare me. Kid’s dad: “that’s how you change an image.” EVT
— Nick Lee (@NickLee51) March 26, 2019
By all accounts, Machado has been a leader in the clubhouse. He was instrumental in getting Fernando Tatis Jr. on the Opening Day roster. He and Eric Hosmer had dinner with Padres owner, Ron Fowler to convince him to put Tatis on the roster to start the year, despite the risk of losing a year of control by doing so. That’s something a leader does.
Plus, Tatis and Machado seem to be the best of friends and perhaps some of Tatis’ instant stardom can be credited to the tutelage of Machado.
Lastly, how cool is it that a San Diego Padre has his own “This Is Sportscenter” commercial?
Manny Machado tries his hand at watching children in a brand new 'This is Sportscenter commercial.
— Subscribe to Cut4 on YouTube!!!! (@Cut4) September 6, 2019
His statistics were not up to his lofty standards of course, but by and large, Machado’s first year in San Diego was a success. The Padres have already exceeded their win total from 2018, and they have a household name and a perennial All-Star candidate manning third base as the window of contention slowly opens.
Using whatever definition of success you want (on and off the field), do you consider Manny Machado’s first season with the #Padres a success?
— Nick Lee (@NickLee51) September 24, 2019
He established his role on the field and in the clubhouse.
He earned the support of the fans.
He didn't get injured and stayed in shape.
I don't care about the stats this year. He'll be good to go as the team prepares for contention.
— Roy still believes in Wicho. (@Zippy_TMS) September 24, 2019
Agreed. Straight stats it was a down year. Merch sales, ticket sales, tv ratings, definitely a positive for Tatis breaking in. No way to definitively calculate.
— CG (@UCSBGaucho) September 24, 2019