There is no individual that better represents the struggles of the 2023 San Diego Padres than Manny Machado.
After his incredible 2022 in which Machado finished second in NL MVP voting, he’s regressed massively this season. His .232/.280/.374 slash line would all be career-lows, and his 84 OPS+ means he’s been 16% below league average.
Last season, he put up a 158 OPS+, so he’s fallen off immensely. Just like the Padres, after a fantastic 2022, he’s been very disappointing in 2023.
Machado’s production on the field is the most quantifiable aspect of his struggles. While his defense has remained elite, his offensive statistics have all taken a dive. After placing in the 91st percentile in hard hit % in 2022, he’s in the 44th percentile this season. His average exit velocity elite last year, sitting in the 89th percentile.
This season, that’s down to a mediocre 51st percentile. Most concerningly, his expected slugging percentage has dropped from the 79th percentile to the 22nd percentile. His 3.0% home run rate is well below his career normal, while his 6.6% walk rate would be his lowest since 2014.
Along with his changes in the three true outcomes, his types of batted balls have changed as well. Machado’s line drive rate has dropped 7% from his 2022 numbers, which has led to large increases in both his ground ball and fly ball rate. Line drives are the best kind of batted balls for hitters, as they have the highest batting averages. When those changes are paired with an 11% decrease in hard-hit rate, that’s a recipe for disaster.
While it’s harder to quantify, it’s undeniable that Machado’s impact on the Padres is much larger than what he produces on the field. He was a fantastic leader in 2022.
With Fernando Tatis Jr. absent due to a series of poor decisions, he stepped up, providing the Padres dugout with much-needed maturity. When he sprained his left ankle in mid-June, it seemed as if he would miss at least a month.
He returned 11 days later, playing through the injury. His struggles at the plate that came as a result of the sprain may have cost him his first MVP, as he came up just short of snatching the award from Paul Goldschmidt.
He chose the team over himself, in what was a wonderful sign of growth. In early August, while in the midst of a five game losing streak, Machado was asked if he was worried. He responded that he wasn’t, because “I’m Manny ******* Machado.”. He ended the slide with a walk-off three-run home run, taking control and ownership of the team’s struggles.
That leadership and confidence that Machado showed last season was not present on Sunday afternoon. During the ninth inning of the Padres fifth consecutive loss, Juan Soto, Rougned Odor, and Tatis Jr. were seen laughing in the dugout. Machado sat next to them, smiling. It’s the kind of moment where a veteran leader needs to step up and remind the younger players of the situation. Machado did the opposite.
“I think we’re doing everything we can out there and ****’s just not going our way,” Manny Machado said. “It’s all right. Just keep our head(s) up and come out tomorrow. We might lose tomorrow. We might not. Who knows, but go out there and perform.”. That quote doesn’t exude the same confidence that “I’m Manny ******* Machado” does.
San Diego’s struggles go far deeper than Machado. They’ve got numerous problems in the clubhouse, and it’ll take a lot of hard work to fix them. However, leaders are expected to be part of the solution. Right now, Machado is part of the problem. That needs to change.
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.