There’s 29 games left on the San Diego Padres schedule for the 2022 season and this, honestly, might be the most important 29-game stretch in the last decade for this team.
The Padres currently sit in the second wild card spot, holding a half game lead over Philadelphia and are four games above Milwaukee, too. Entering today’s game against the Dodgers, San Diego has a 86.4% chance of making the playoffs, per FanGraphs.
And while all of this is infinitely more important than individual awards, we’re going to spend a few minutes today talking about why one player’s specific season has helped propel the Padres to where they are right now.
That player is Manny Machado.
I don’t think I need to spend much time telling you how important the 30-year-old Machado has been to San Diego since his arrival in 2019. He’s on a first ballot Hall of Fame trajectory right now and is on pace to be one of the game’s greatest third baseman ever. Machado is the type of cornerstone player that cements his legacy as a city great and, one day, has a statue outside of your stadium for all to see.
It’s pretty significant, however, that this he’s having arguably the greatest season of his 11-year career during this ever so important stretch run.
Entering today’s game, on September 3rd, Machado is slashing .306/.375/.541 – all of which would be career marks should the season end today. He’s homered 25 times, despite missing 10 games, and has brought home 87, scoring 84 runs on his own. His 156 wRC+ mark is also fifth in the league, trailing only Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the National League, and everyone in the world knows he’s amongst the greatest defensive third baseman in the history of baseball.
It’s pretty clear that Machado is having a special season, but it seems like the National League MVP conversation has included only the aforementioned Goldschmidt and Arenado as of late. Both of these players are undeniably having phenomenal seasons, and they both play for an exceptionally talented team that’s essentially guaranteed to make the playoffs.
Below, you’ll find their stats this year before play starts on September 3rd:
Paul Goldschmidt: 6.7 WAR, .330/.417/.613, 1.029 OPS, 189 wRC+, 33 HR, 105 RBI, 95 RS
Nolan Arenado: 6.9 WAR, .305/.367/.567, .933 OPS, 161 wRC+, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 64 RS
We’ll start with Goldschmidt, who’s been on a torrid pace offensively for the entirety of this season and is having one of the more impressive offensive performances we’ve seen in the National League in the past decade.
He leads Machado in almost every offensive statistic possible, but has only accumulated .4 WAR more than him because of his defensive value, and also has 21 more plate appearances (roughly six games) under his belt. Should Goldschmidt slump at all in the month of September, something that could also happen to Machado mind you, his offensive numbers would obviously drop and his overall value would take a hit as a result. It’s important to note this given the value that Machado creates on both sides of the ball because of his glove.
Next let’s turn to Arenado, who is neck-and-neck with Machado in nearly every single offensive category, yet gets a slight bump from a WAR standpoint (0.6) because he’s been slightly better defensively than the Padres’ third baseman. Still, they’re essentially a wash offensively, which makes this race even more interesting.
Honestly my biggest argument to Machado being a legitimate candidate for the National League MVP is the word ‘valuable’, which is entrenched right in the middle of this award.
Both of the Cardinals’ stars play on the same team and removing one from the equation still leaves them with a superstar player right in the middle of their lineup. You could make the same argument now that Juan Soto is in San Diego, but the truth is he’s only been here for one month. Prior to Soto’s arrival, Machado had single-handedly carried an offense that without him would have been one of the league’s worst units – something that’s amplified even more because Fernando Tatis Jr. has not played a game this year. If Manny Machado wasn’t on the Padres right now, they would almost certainly not be in the playoff hunt, and likely battling it out for fourth place in the National League West with the San Francisco Giants or Arizona Diamondbacks.
This next stretch of games will obviously determine the league’s MVP award and a continued hot streak followed by the Padres making the playoffs could push Machado ahead of the Cardinals’ pair. All three are having phenomenal seasons and are all deserving of the prestigious recognition.