A closer look into Manny Machado’s red-hot start

Padres Manny Machadao

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Padres Manny Machado
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado’s red-hot start is exactly what the Padres needed with their superstar shortstop sidelined to open the season.

With Fernando Tatis Jr. sidelined until at least June, the San Diego Padres desperately needed one of their other middle-of-the-order bats to step up. Thus far, Manny Machado has done that and then some.

The 29-year-old is in year four of a ten-year contract signed before the 2019 season. His first year in San Diego didn’t go as planned, but Machado has been solid since. He’s looking to find that next level in Tatis’s absence.

Machado has played in all 14 games for the Padres, recently getting half a day off as the designated hitter on Wednesday. He’s posted a robust .358/.433/.632 slash line (214 OPS+) already with five doubles, three home runs, and 10 RBI.

Heading into the Padres’ first true litmus test of the season against a 9-3 Dodgers club starting Friday, here’s a deeper dive as to why Machado has jumped out so well.

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Pitch Tracking

Beginning with his pitch tracking, Machado isn’t hitting below .323 on any pitches thrown his way. Eight of his 11 strikeouts this season have come via fastballs. However, the former Baltimore Oriole has a .464 slugging percentage and 96.4 mph average exit velocity on the heater.

He has reverse splits out of the gate this season. Historically, he’s had more success off fastballs. Machado is crushing breaking and offspeed pitches through the first two weeks to the tune of a .385 and .444 average, respectively.

Further, he has yet to strike out on an offspeed pitch, with two of his three home runs coming from here. For reference, in his first season with the Padres, Machado hit just .135 on offspeed pitches.

Year Pitch Type # % PA AB H 1B 2B 3B HR SO
2022 Fastballs 116 53 35 31 10 8 2 0 0 8
2022 Breaking 56 25.6 15 13 5 2 2 0 1 3
2022 Offspeed 47 21.5 9 9 4 1 1 0 2 0

Data via Baseball Savant

He’s always been more of a free swinger, and this year is no different. Machado has a 30.3% chase rate for pitches out of the strike zone. But it doesn’t seem to matter as he’s made contact at a 60% clip, better than the MLB average of 58.4%.

Batted Ball Profile

Through the first two weeks, Machado’s batted ball profile is unlike anything we’ve seen in his career. He’s pulling the ball at a career-high 50.0% rate (Statcast began tracking the stat in 2015).

Season GB % FB % LD % PU % Pull % Straight % Oppo %
2019 42.2 25.8 21.4 10.6 31.4 41.1 27.5
2020 38.2 24.1 27.2 10.5 44.5 30.4 25.1
2021 39.5 25.4 26.4 8.7 38.3 40 21.8
2022 50 14.3 23.8 11.9 50.0 26.2 23.8
Player 41.2 24.3 24.6 9.9 37.1 38.5 24.4
MLB 45 22.7 25.2 7.1 36.6 37.8 25.4

Data via Baseball Savant

Looking at his career in San Diego, his previous high was a 44.5% pull rate in the abbreviated 2020 season. But in 2022, Machado is turning on pitches quickly, as seen earlier this week in the series against the Reds.

Credit: Baseball Savant
In the three-game sweep over Cincinnati, the Padres’ slugger went 5-for-9, with one double, two home runs, and four RBI. That’ll play.

Combined with turning on pitches, Machado is also smashing the ball this year. He’s tied for sixth in Major League Baseball with a 57.1% hard-hit rate.

Padres Manny Machado
Credit: Fangraphs

Per Statcast, Machado has drawn similar scores to Xander Bogaerts (2019) and Corey Seager (2019).

  • Bogaerts (2019): .309/.384/.555, 52 2B, 33 HR, 117 RBI
  • Seager (2019): .272/.335/483, 44 2B, 19 HR, 87 RBI
  • Machado (2022 pace): .275/.348/.494, 32 RBI, 116 RBI

Obviously, it’s still very early in the season, but Machado has put the Padres on his back.

The Friars enter Friday’s series with the Dodgers seventh in the league in runs (61). Machado has accounted for nearly 20 percent of those with a league-high 12 runs.

The Padres have received excellent starting pitching thus far. They’ll need Machado to deliver against Los Angeles, a team he has a .252 lifetime average against with 11 home runs and 33 RBI in a 53-game sample size.

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