The Padres got the unfortunate news that their rookie phenom shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. will hit the Injured List for a few weeks. It’s time for Manny Machado to step up.
It was a fun first month in San Diego as the Padres completed their first above-.500 March/April since their last winning season, in 2010. Winning covers a lot of things, like the fact Manny Machado is off to the worst start of his 10-year career with a .236 average, four home runs and a .693 OPS which is his worst March/April yet.
The fact that the Padres keep on winning despite Machado’s underwhelming performance at the plate is a good sign, for now. Plus, his defensive prowess has been on full display all season, now at two different positions, as he fills in at shortstop for Fernando Tatis, Jr. His defense seems like it will always be there, but everyone is still waiting for that offensive explosion that has just not happened yet.
The time is now for Machado to heat up, with Tatis, the team’s best hitter to this point, down for a while. Tatis leads the Padres in batting average (.300), on-base percentage (.360), OPS (.910) and wRC+ (141).
Machado, on the other hand, has been disappointing, batting .236 with a .325 on-base percentage, .693 OPS and a below-average 91 wRC+. His $300 million contract will be held over his head his whole career, especially if he continues to put up underwhelming numbers. Seven years of history dictate that these numbers should improve soon, as he is a career .281 hitter who averaged nearly 36 home runs in the last four seasons with a career wRC+ of 119.
There are currently five Padres hitters with a better OPS than Machado, all of whom make pennies compared to his gaudy contract.
There is no time like the present for Machado to take the reins of this lineup and lead them through this tough schedule without Tatis. The Friars still have games against the defending NL East division champion Braves, the two-time defending National League champion Dodgers and the Mets, who are above.500 and are looking to challenge for the NL East crown. The Padres need Machado at his best to at worst tread water in these next few weeks.
Machado, of course, is very capable of turning these numbers around in a hurry. Perhaps May will bring better fortune. Last May, with Baltimore, Machado hit .288 with seven home runs and a .883 OPS. The troubling trend is that March/April has typically been Machado’s best month while over his previous six seasons, May has been one of his worst.
Machado’s career splits:
If the winning stops and Machado continues to hit as he has, the groaning and criticism will intensify. He was given, at the time, the largest free agent contract in American sports history and at the moment, he has been a below-average hitter. The Padres are yet to see the near-.300 average, 30-plus home run power he has displayed throughout his career.
Baseball has a long season with many peaks and valleys. It’s time for Machado to grab his hiking boots and walking stick and head on up the peak and put this valley where he is in his rear-view mirror.
His excellent defense staves off some of the critics, but he is not holding up his end of the bargain until his bat picks it up. The Padres need their superstar now more than they have at any point in the first month of the season, with Tatis’ injury, and it’s time for him to step up and be better at the plate.