Since the blockbuster trade to acquire four-time All-Star Manny Machado, a rough stretch made the trade look like a mistake. However, Machado’s resurgence at the plate recently is keeping the Dodgers in a first-place race.
In Machado’s best offensive year, the Dodgers acquired him to play gold-glove caliber defense at shortstop and slug in the heart of the lineup. The latter didn’t happen for the first three weeks after the trade.
In a 19-game stretch, starting exactly a week after he made his Dodgers debut, Machado went 20 for 71, with one home run, five runs-batted-in, and 23 strikeouts.
A batting average of .282 seems like nothing to be ashamed about, especially since the league’s average is .249. But a power hitter who was hitting .315 when he was traded, it didn’t look good. Strikeouts with runners on base were more expected than a clutch hit.
Machado was striking out in 10 percent of his at-bats, prior to the rough stretch. By Aug. 15, the game before Machado hit his first two months in three weeks, his strikeout percentage reached 23 percent.
Chasing pitches out of the strike zone caused much of Machado’s hitting woes. A rather patient slugger was swinging and missing more than at any point in the season. As his strikeouts racked up, Machado’s slugging percentage diminished by 124 points. From July 27 to Aug. 15, Machado had six extra-base hits, only one was a home run.
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The Dodgers went 8-11 in that stretch, losing traction in the heated divisional race. Since mid-August, Machado has resurged at the plate. In 17 games, from Aug. 17 to Sept. 4, Machado had a .271 batting average and slugged .600.
With two fewer games, Machado outproduced himself. Going 19 in 70 at-bats, Machado hit two doubles and seven home runs. In that stretch, the Dodgers went 11-6. Trending towards better plate discipline, Machado’s resurgence relates to power and patience.
Machado’s hard-hit percentage correlates with his performance. During the slump, his lower hard-hit percentage reached 34%. During his hot streak, nearly half of Machado’s hits were hard-hits.
According to fangraphs, hard-hit percentages between 30-35 is above average. Any hard-hit percentage 40% and above is excellent. Getting hits in the strike zone, while not taking the bait of the plate, has shown why the Dodgers traded for the shortstop, who is in a contract year.
A generational player, like Machado, doesn’t meet performance expectations sitting at average to above-average numbers. Machado’s resurgence at the plate is keeping the Dodgers relevant in the divisional race, soaring from 4.5 games back of first place to temporarily holding the spot for one day.