While a Padres player may not win National League MVP as some hoped, one award is pretty obvious.
In the middle of the season, towards the end of August, the obvious choice for MVP in the National League was Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. However, due to a massive slump that lasted the majority of September, that award will likely be handed to Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman. September saw Tatis bat .208 with seven extra-base hits in 22 games.
Another Friars slugger entered the MVP mix late in Manny Machado. During the first 15 games of the shortened season, Machado hit a lowly .193 with a meager .636 OPS and 66 wRC+. Then, he caught fire. For the rest of the season, he batted .341 with a 1.058 OPS and 176 wRC+, firmly planting himself in the MVP race. However, Freeman’s surge likely will be too much for Machado to be given the coveted hardware.
However, this should not mean Machado will come away with the same amount of space in his trophy case that he started the year with. Despite his two Gold Gloves, one Platinum Glove award, and four All-Star appearances with his powerful bat and excellent defense at third base, one award has eluded him-the Silver Slugger, given to the best hitter in each league at each defensive position. Padres fans know that award well, since Mr. Padre — Tony Gwynn himself — collected them like some people collect stamps.
That particular award has eluded Machado for some reason, despite putting together five seasons of at least 32 home runs and posting an OPS over .860 in three seasons before his now career-high mark set in 2020. However, this year, the award can no longer hide from the Padres’ third baseman. The stars aligned for Machado to win this award handily. In the shortened season, he hit 16 home runs on a 162-game pace of 43 home runs. He set career-highs with a .950 OPS and 158 OPS+.
When national pundits think of great National League third basemen, the obvious names that come to mind are Nolan Arenado, Justin Turner, Kris Bryant, and Eugenio Suarez. Of course, Machado’s name is usually included, as it should be.
This year, things fell perfectly for Machado to take home the award, deeming him the best hitting third baseman in the National League. He leads all NL third basemen in average, home runs, OPS, RBI, OPS, wRC+, WAR, and many other categories. Clearly, he is the obvious and frankly only legitimate candidate for the award.
The Padres have not had a Silver Slugger winner since, ironically, third baseman Chase Headley in 2012, when he put together a ridiculous season (.286 avg, 31 HR, 115 RBI, 145 OPS+). San Diego only has had two Silver Slugger winners in the Petco Park era (Mark Loretta, 2004). Machado winning would validate the strong season he had and put any doubts about his large contract to bed. Machado clearly was the best hitting third baseman in the National League in 2020, and it really wasn’t very close.
Manny Machado should win his first Silver Slugger award next month.