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Dodgers' Max Muncy takes a step back to get over past struggles

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To Rowan Kavner
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Sometimes we take a step back to see the way forward.

For Max Muncy, an already encouraging road trip to an otherwise frustrating season began to intrigue on two August 1s in San Francisco. A changeup from groundball extraordinaire Logan Webb grabbed the plate too much. Muncey stepped his back foot slightly toward the back of the box before lifting his front leg into the air to prepare for the pitch, after which he smashed his 399-foot homer.

In a year full of adjustments, Muncie may have found the adjustments to keep the season on track.

A Dodgers infielder said the new step-back move was “very weird.” “But at the same time, it’s one of those things that comes naturally when you’re doing something uncomfortable. So far, that’s kind of what’s happening.”

Three months ago, Muncie was at a loss.

Mechanically, he felt the same as last season, but the results were surprisingly different. We started the season 1-on-1. As the weeks passed, the struggle continued.

“The only excuse for that is that I wasn’t very good at it,” Muncey said in May. In, they’re pitching really good. I’m not going to take that away from them. The pitchers were dominating me.” ”

A 10-for-26 start through August lifted his batting average to . This was the same player who hit his 35th home run in 2018 and his 2019 two years in a row, and his 36th last year, a career-high. He finished each year with his OPS+ above his 130. He continues his efforts to reach league average this year.

At the low end of May, with an OPS below .600, Muncy was placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his left elbow. The reset was both physical and mental.

“Obviously, I wasn’t hitting my best shot, and I was hitting a lot of shots to correct it,” Muncey said. “I work two, three, four hours a day with elbows that need a little rest. Not ideal.”

He took nine days off before participating in a short rehab stint in Triple-A Oklahoma City before hitting a walk-off homer on June 7.

Upon his return on June 9, manager Dave Roberts told him to consider the rest of the season a clean slate.

“This is a new season for him,” Roberts said. “That’s what I really want him to take to heart.”

Looked like him for a day.

Muncy’s first game against the Dodgers presented a special occasion. Trea Turner was guaranteed on June 9 that he would count on first base with two outs in his sixth inning on the field, where he was 1-2 down. He was then issued a free pass to White by Sox manager Tony LaRussa. Muncey had a season-high five RBI days in which he threw three runs.

“I wanted them to pay,” Muncy said, seemingly around the corner. he looked refreshing. However, the elation was short-lived. A 19-2 stretch ensued.

The Dodgers maintained their belief in brawling sluggers. After all, he was running previous iterations of the Dodgers lineup, and Muncy’s wondrous combination of perseverance and power is especially beneficial in the postseason, where he holds his career OPS .881. was. His absence from last year’s playoff roster after colliding at first base with Milwaukee’s Jace Peterson on Oct. 3 played a notable role in his NLCS ejection for the Dodgers.

So Roberts continued to trot through Muncie, believing things would turn around this year.

“It means a lot to me,” Muncie said of her unwavering support. Doing what I can and being out there to be positive for everyone is part of who I am.”

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His struggles haven’t fundamentally changed his identity as a hitter.

Muncey is one of the sharpest players in baseball, having the lowest tracking percentage and second highest walking percentage among qualified NL hitters. However, he is usually not doing any damage on the pitches he attacks. His expected batting average is the worst in Dodgers career. He’s batting .176 and slugging .333 (.329 and .927 respectively last season).

It’s been difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s going on, but he’ll eventually admit the lingering effects of last year’s elbow injury.

“There’s definitely too many pitches in the center of the plate that I’m not connecting this year,” Muncy said. is the cause.”

His hard-hitting percentage is down from last year, but in keeping with the 2019 All-Star season, hitting the ball relatively hard, he was going down the pitch at an alarming rate.

Muncy is averaging the 13th-highest batted angle among eligible hitters this year, nearly six degrees higher than last season. This is his seventh-largest year-to-year change in batted angle in his league in the majors, and he is three degrees more than the previous season’s average. As a result, he also has the best flyball and pop-up percentages of his career.

So he worked to better position his bat trajectory and body.

“The problem I had all year was that I was working so much uphill because of my elbow,” he says. This will keep your elbows in the proper position.”

The move was unfamiliar to Muncie, but it was familiar to teammate Chris Taylor.

“First it was the drill I did when I started doing leg kicks,” Taylor said.

Helping Muncie find them both.

He started August with a season-high seven-game hitting streak, breaking the previous three-game long. He didn’t record more than three homers in any month until August, when he hit four homers and three doubles in his first seven games this season.

“He worked really hard in his mindset, in his mental grind when he started the season, and in getting through the injury part, so I think we’re on the other side of that,” Roberts said. The consistent AB quality we’re seeing — he’s hitting, he’s driving runs — you can see the confidence starting to ooze from him.

All the powerful performances lend extra credence to his comeback. 169 against the fastball in his first four months of the year, this month he hit 5-for-12 (.417) against the pitch with two homers and two doubles. and is catching up with the fastball in a way it hasn’t been all year. Two of his six hits on pitches over 95 mph this season have come in the past two weeks.

“It’s a little relief for me. All the work I do is paying off a little bit in the end,” Muncy said before qualifying for the stretch. I can’t believe I’ve stopped doing it yet.”

If so, the 77-33 Dodgers are already well on their way to an early clinch. A struggling left-hander is beginning to find his way.

For the former, a leap required a step back.

“I think there’s a lot more, frighteningly,” Muncy said. “For the whole team.”

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West on FOX Sports. A proud LSU graduate, he credits his experience as a sports writer and editor for The Daily Reveille to set him up for a career covering the NFL, NBA and MLB. Before he joined FOX, he worked as an editor for the Dodgers’ digital and print publications. Outside of stadiums and watching sports, Rowan enjoys playing with his dog, hiking, running, golfing, and reminiscing about his 2011 Mavs championship run. You can find him on Twitter @.Rowan Kavner.

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