Despite lackluster results, Padres’ Machado looking great at the plate

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Padres

A closer look at the offensive numbers for San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado. 

Manny Machado has been crushing the baseball this season at the plate.

He has also walked at a career-high rate, which is an encouraging sign for him. However, Machado has been pretty unlucky on batted balls with a career-low BABIP of .244 thus far in 2021. That should not take away from the fact that he has been playing extremely well for the Padres this year. 

Anyone who has watched the Padres’ games this season can likely recall numerous occasions upon which Machado crushed the ball and was unlucky that the ball found a fielder’s glove. This, of course, happens to everyone, but Machado has been surprisingly unlucky this season. It is easy to say that this is simply a case of making excuses for Machado, but the fact of the matter is that he has a career BABIP of .296 – For context, the average BABIP in MLB is .284. The point is that Machado has been locked in this season, and many of his overall numbers do not reflect how well he has been playing. 

When looking more closely at his Statcast batted ball data, it is clear that Machado has been having the best at-bats and approach of his career. In terms of barrel rate, he ranks 49th amongst all hitters with a rate of 7.0% (Shoutout to Wil Myers, who is pacing the team with a barrel rate of 7.1%). 

As the numbers in the table below indicate, Machado is hitting the ball harder than he ever has before, which is a good sign for the Padres moving forward. 

Season Events EV max EV LA Barrels Barrel% HardHit HardHit%
2020 191 90.2 115.7 15.6 21 11.0% 83 43.5%
2021 91 93.1 114.1 13.2 9 10.0% 52 57.8%

His hard-hit percentage of 57.8% ranks sixth among all qualified major league hitters, further illustrating how well he has been hitting the ball so far. For some context, Mike Trout has a hard-hit percentage of 58.6. When you do anything nearly as well as Mike Trout, it is obviously a good sign!

Furthermore, Machado has been hitting the ball as hard as some of the most well-known sluggers in baseball. Here are the batters who are leading MLB in average exit velocity this season:

Rk. Player BBE LA (°) SwSp% Max Avg FB/LD
1 Stanton, Giancarlo 76 8.9 23.7 120.1 98.6 103.9
2 Judge, Aaron 65 9.8 47.7 116.2 97.7 100.7
3 Alonso, Pete 63 18.9 34.9 117.1 96.3 98.2
4 Acuña Jr., Ronald 90 17.8 43.3 115.8 95.5 98.4
5 Soler, Jorge 69 15.5 31.9 114.7 95.2 96.7
6 Guerrero Jr., Vladimir 77 9.8 31.2 116.1 94.7 98.5
7 Trout, Mike 59 10.6 45.8 115.5 94.1 99.9
8 Reyes, Franmil 66 9.7 30.3 114.9 94 98.8
9 Winker, Jesse 70 15.4 40 112.6 93.4 96.5
10 Harper, Bryce 61 9.5 44.3 116.3 93.2 99.3
11 Machado, Manny 91 13.2 27.5 114.1 93.1 97.5

It is not a coincidence that most of these players are at the top of the leaderboard. Soler is somewhat surprising to see on this list, but all the other players on it have established themselves as very talented hitters throughout the last two years (Jesse Winker and Franmil Reyes). Here are the combined offensive numbers of the eleven aforementioned hitters:

wOBA xwOBA wRC+ Off WAR
0.409 0.427 164 7.9 1.0

There are only twenty-two hitters in MLB with a wRC+ of 163 – In other words, they rank inside the top thirty hitters in baseball this season. With this in mind, it is easy to see Machado hitting more productively throughout the rest of the 2021 season. Yet, there are even more reasons to have confidence in him moving forward. 

He ranks second in baseball with 52 batted balls hit at or greater than 95 mph (Ronald Acuña Jr. ranks first with 55 batted balls at 95 mph+). Yet arguably, the best improvement Machado has made in 2021 has been his pitch selectivity and patience in the batter’s box. In order to hit the ball so hard, Machado has improved his eye at the plate (He had LASIK surgery in the offseason, so that has likely helped). 

As was mentioned earlier, Machado has been walking more frequently in 2021 than he ever has throughout his career. This is largely due to the fact that Machado has been more patient at the plate and swung less often this season. Here are his plate discipline numbers from the last three seasons:

Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
2019 31.4% 69.8% 46.6% 62.5% 87.6% 77.4% 39.6%
2020 27.8% 73.3% 46.7% 63.2% 88.4% 79.6% 41.6%
2021 27.2% 64.2% 41.1% 58.0% 92.0% 78.1% 37.5%

Although his outside contact percentage is down, it is not low enough to merit real concern over his ability to make more contact moving forward. Machado is swinging less frequently and being more selective on pitches thrown in the strike zone. This is likely one of the reasons why he has increased his average exit velocity this season. Additionally, his zone contact percentage of 92% is very impressive and ranks 16th among all qualified hitters in MLB. It also rates as the highest zone-contact percentage of his career. The same can be said of his average exit velocity, which is another sign that he has gotten even better despite the high level he already plays at. 


His underlying Statcast numbers are encouraging despite his .244 BABIP, which has held him back so far. At this point in time, Machado is taking great at-bats and looks locked in defensively, as he always has been. While it is obviously no secret that Machado is one of the best players in baseball, it is notable that he is hitting the ball harder than he ever has before. Furthermore, he has had a more discerning eye and shown a better approach at the plate overall. In light of the aforementioned numbers, look for Machado to start racking up hits and playing like the MVP-caliber player that he is throughout the rest of this season. 

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

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