1. Manny Machado has the best season of his career, wins a Silver Slugger, and receives some MVP votes
If you were to look at Manny Machado‘s season last year just at face value, you’d say it was a disappointment. A year after slashing .294/.343/.533 with 37 home runs, Manny slashed .259/.310/.471 with 33 home runs.
Now, granted, 33 home runs is still pretty good, but given the fact that the entire MLB has had a significant increase in power over the past couple years, it’s not as impressive as it used to be, and a .259 average it pretty pedestrian for Manny.
But last year was a tale of two halves for Manny, as he slashed .230/.296/.445 in the first half and .290/.326/.500 in the second half. So what happened? Honestly, it was just a case of bad luck and regression to the mean.
Everything about what Manny was doing last year looked perfectly normal, right in line with his career. His strikeout rate and walk rate were right in line, his hard-hit rate was actually up to a career-high 39.5%, his average exit velocity and launch angle were both just like the rest of his career, there was just one exception – his BABIP.
During that horrendous first half, Manny had a miserable .239 BABIP, but during the second half, it was at .290, right where it typically would be. Manny had a lot of bad luck in the first half of the season and once his BABIP regressed to the mean, he was right back to being Manny.
This discrepancy shows up in his xSTATS, as he had a .291 xAVG last year. He also had 39.1 xHRs last year, which leads me to think that maybe, just maybe, he could hit 40 home runs. Considering his hard-hit rate jumped up to a career-high, why can’t he make more progress this year? He’s still just 25, it’s entirely possible.
And if Manny makes that kind of progress, we’re looking at a guy who’s going to hit around .300 with nearly 40 home runs (or maybe more than 40 home runs), that is easily one of the best hitters in baseball. Add in his incredible defense and you’ve got yourself an MVP candidate.