The Los Angeles Dodgers are fighting their way across the finish line in the contentious NL West. Up just a game-and-a-half over the Colorado Rockies, with a magic number still at six, the Dodgers are going to be playing meaningful baseball for the duration of the regular season.
They are going to need Manny Machado to step up. Since the start of September, Machado has slashed .259/.307/.481 with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs in 88 plate appearances, good for a 110 wRC+.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Dodgers’ prized trade deadline acquisition hasn’t quite been as good as they would have hoped since he joined the team. The 26-year-old was in the midst of a career year with the Baltimore Orioles before the blockbuster trade. He slashed .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs, 65 RBIs and a 154 wRC+ in 413 plate appearances before the deal. His 3.8 fWAR through 96 games put him on pace to be worth about 6 wins total.
Here’s the thing, though. While Machado was on pace to post the best offensive season of his career with Baltimore, his defense was the one area of his game that had taken a noticeable step back, according to advanced metrics. His defense had been worth -2.7 runs above average with the Orioles, putting him on pace to finish with a negative run value defensively for the first time in his career.
But after the Dodgers made the deal that cost them five prospects, his game has taken a different turn.
Machado has still been good offensively since joining Los Angeles; he just hasn’t been elite. His .268/.335/.490 slash puts him at a 121 wRC+ since starting in the Chavez Ravine, which ranks tied for 69th in the Majors in that stretch. That wRC+ puts him in just the 68th percentile among the 218 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances during that time, despite being in the 97th percentile among hitters prior to the trade.
Machado’s defense, weirdly, is what has taken a giant step forward since joining the Dodgers. After grading out so poorly during the first half of the year, Machado has played right to his career average since. He’s been worth 3.3 defensive runs above average while wearing the blue and white. It might be because he has played more innings at third base with the Dodgers than the Orioles, and this is where he grades out best. (The Orioles did not play Machado at third base at all this year.) Machado has been worth 1.7 runs above average at third this season according to UZR, equating to a 15.7 UZR/150, which would be his highest value since 2013.
Those innings at third base have helped to keep Machado’s fWAR quite high since joining the Dodgers, as he’s been worth 2.2 wins since the deal.
The Dodgers have the second-best offense in the majors by wRC+. Manny Machado wasn’t ever supposed to be their lineup’s savior. They had plenty of firepower in that department. Between Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and others, the Dodgers were fine on the offensive side of the baseball.
What they needed from Machado was an all-around player to help shore up some of their defensive issues, especially at shortstop. He’s been just that, serving as a major upgrade over Chris Taylor in that department. And, even with a diminished bat since the deal, he’s still added another dimension to one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
So, while Manny Machado still needs to step up and find his pre-Dodgers bat in order to help carry them to the NL West crown, he’s provided a ton of value in an area where the team has greatly needed it.
It all was just because he flipped his 2018 script.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.