Padres star Manny Machado has strong case to be 2022 NL MVP

Oct 19, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) hits a home run in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during game two of the NLCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

For the last two seasons, Manny Machado earned at least seven MVP votes, including finishing third in 2020. This season, he has as strong a case as any contender in the field in the National League to be crowned Most Valuable Player.

The 2022 season was full of turmoil for the San Diego Padres. Yet, their star third baseman remained a steady presence in the clubhouse and on the field at the hot corner. The team could have imploded, as it did in 2021. This is especially true after the Fernando Tatis Jr. saga, which included a wrist injury making him unavailable for the first four months of the season, before being slammed with a PED suspension, killing Tatis’ season before it even really began. Instead of sulking or hiding under that valid excuse, Machado, and the Padres, pressed on, and even thrived.

For the majority of the season, the 30-year-old veteran carried this team on his broad shoulders. Without the comfort of Tatis in the lineup, Machado was the lone threat opponents had to neutralize. Yet for the most part, they couldn’t.

Machado’s MVP case is not just about his stellar numbers. It’s the fact that he put up those All-Star, nay, MVP, numbers, with little to no help around him for most of the season. There are two Cardinals sluggers that have legitimate MVP cases as well, in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Both are among the best in the entire sport. However, the mere presence of both in the conversation tells you that Machado did more with less. Machado didn’t have another MVP-caliber player hitting behind him. He had to do it all himself. Neither Goldschmidt nor Arenado had to put the entire city of St. Louis on his back and will the franchise to victory.

Machado had to in San Diego. Even after the arrival of Juan Soto, the star right fielder did not hit like the MVP-caliber player we are accustomed to seeing. He hit .236 with a meager .390 slugging percentage and six homers in 52 games in San Diego. It was still up to Machado to carry the load.

Plus, he did all this while being hampered by a gnarly ankle injury he suffered on Father’s Day. Most players would have hit the injured list. Instead, after just over a week off, he played hurt. He played with a bum ankle for the rest of the season. For a brief spell, it clearly affected him at the plate. However, he quickly adjusted and went back to mashing and played in 150 games for the eighth time in his career.

In the end, Machado’s numbers alone are worthy of MVP consideration. He finished with the highest fWAR by any player in the National League, at 7.4. Arenado finished with 7.3, while Goldschmidt was third at 7.1. Machado reached the coveted 30-homer, 100-RBI plateau for just the second time in his 11-year career. He finished tied for fourth in batting average at .298.

Only Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt had a higher wrC+ than Machado’s 152. Again, consider the support system both Freeman and Goldschmidt enjoyed on their respective teams, compared to Machado’s lack of support for much of the year.

All this while playing at a much more premium position in the field than those two slugging first basemen. Arenado and Machado both play third base, which is an extremely demanding position in the field. Machado plays elite defense. His defensive metrics were perhaps a little skewed this season given his balky ankle during the latter half of the year. Anyone who watches Machado day in and day out knows, he is one of the best defenders of this generation.

Machado outshines his third base counterpart Arenado in fWAR, OPS+ (159 to 154), wRC+ (152 to 151), oWAR (7.1 to 5.8), homers and batting average.

The second-best hitter on the Padres in oWAR was Jake Cronenworth, at 4.3, which is 2.8 oWAR lower than Machado. Both Cardinals sluggers had at least a 5.8 oWAR.

Considering his defensive prowess at a tough position, with his lack of support in the lineup in San Diego, along with his elite offensive numbers, Machado has as strong of a case for MVP as any other player. In fact, the argument can be made he should be the favorite, given the support systems other candidates enjoy or their lack of defensive wizardry.

The finalists for MVP will be announced November 7 with the winners being named on November 17.

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