The San Diego Padres’ playoff run ended just three wins short of a World Series appearance. While the Padres were sent packing in five games against the Phillies, the games were much closer than the series seemed on paper. A big reason for was Manny Machado, the team’s most consistent performer in October.
While a number of San Diego’s most feared sluggers were hit and miss in the postseason, Machado was locked in from Game 1 against the Mets. When all was said and done by the end of the NLCS, Machado finished as the Padres’ leader in batting average, total bases, home runs, runs batted in, SLG and OPS.
In hindsight, Machado’s playoff dominance was just an encapsulation — or extension — of his representative regular season. Padres fans won’t be surprised to hear the six-time All-Star led the club in every major statistical category over the 162-game slog.
Last year, Machado posted similar numbers but finished 18th in NL MVP voting, much to the chagrin of San Diego diehards. This year, though, the slugging third baseman has a legitimate chance of taking home the hardware.
Whereas the AL MVP has (seemingly) already been decided following Aaron Judge’s historic season, the NL MVP chase is a three-horse race and Padres owner Peter Seidler fittingly endorsed Machado on 97.3 The Fan.
Is Padres owner Peter Seidler right in believing that Manny Machado is the NL MVP?
Ironically, Machado’s foremost competition for the award both play for the same team: Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. While Arenado and Goldschmidt are the consensus favorites to hoist NL MVP (Machado is third in most writer’s eyes), Machado didn’t have another superstar to help carry the load.
A lot of folks wrote the Padres off after Fernando Tatis Jr.’s suspension. You have to wonder if San Diego is even in the playoffs this year (probably not) if not for Machado, who put the team on his back and played through a gruesome ankle injury that the team initially feared would shelve him for months.
Those variables don’t matter in the eyes of voters, but context matters and Machado didn’t really have any star-power pre-deadline, whereas Arenado had Goldschmidt, and vice versa. Same goes for Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts on the Dodgers, though Freeman isn’t really in consideration for the award.
Machado probably runs away with MVP if not for the injury. In July — when he was playing injured — Machado slumped to a .202 batting average with 11 RBI in 25 games and still finished the year fourth in NL in batting, third in WAR among position players (behind Arenado and Goldschmidt), third in on-base slugging, second in adjusted OPS, third in wRC+ and third in wOBA.
Again, the fact Machado did this with little star-power to back him up is an incredible achievement. Unfortunately, it likely won’t be enough to see him through the NL MVP finish line, as Goldschmidt was the prohibitive favorite before a sluggish September opened the door for Arenado and Machado to gain some traction.
Nobody would bat an eyelash if Machado won the award, but Seidler’s proclamation is more likely to go unfulfilled. Padres fans might just see a repeat of the shortened 2020 season, when Machado finished third in MVP voting behind Freeman and Betts.