Padres: Manny Machado’s slow start greater reason for concern?

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

Manny Machado is off to a slow start in his second season with the Padres. Is there a greater reason for concern?

When Manny Machado limped to the finish line in the first of a ten-year deal with the Padres last season, I think most attributed his struggles to “new contract, new team.” He was pegged by many as a breakout candidate, having settled into his second year. And while the sample size is limited, he’s off to another slow in the team’s 60-game slate.

Entering Wednesday’s finale with the Dodgers, the 28-year-old is batting just .217 with two home runs and seven RBI in 12 games. A closer review of his statistics shows that Manny is whiffing on more pitches this year, so far, with particular emphasis on fastballs. The Padres’ third baseman hit .306 off fastballs last year but sports a .172 average and a 23.3 percent whiff rate on such occasions.

With 10 of his 13 strikeouts coming on fastballs, it’s kind of strange, given that he’s hitting .500 against offspeed pitches. His expected batting average on fastballs, according to StatCast, is .224, which isn’t much better, but it might suggest that’s been the victim of bad luck thus far.

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Still, Machado recorded the fewest number of barrels last year (8.0 percent) since 2015, and he’s on pace to go even lower than that, with a 6.1 barrel percentage through the first two weeks of play. His exit velocity is the lowest since StatCast began recording the statistic, as is his hard-hit rate.

The Padres offense badly needs Machado to put up numbers similar to when he was with the Orioles. The team’s .330 OBP is much better than last year’s group, and they are seeing more pitches per plate appearance.

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Machado is a crucial piece for the Padres to take that next step. Much should improve once he starts catching up to the fastball. Let’s see if he can get it going over the next couple of weeks.