Hey everyone, it’s Whatever Wednesdays again. Dodger’s Opening Day is tomorrow, Thursday, March 28th. So today I just wanted to ponder the question “Is Max Muncy ok?”
For those who don’t know, Max Muncy had a breakout year in 2018. He hit for a .263 average, had a .391 OBP, slugged for .582, and posted a .973 OPS. If you include the 35 home runs in there and 79 walks in 481 plate appearances, that’s pretty darn elite.
Everyone seems to believe that Max will regress some this year. This is common whenever anyone has a breakout year. There is a ton of data available nowadays so everyone will go into the lab and try to figure out how to get this guy out.
Does he chase offspeed pitches if it’s a 1-2 count or 2-2? Or does he only chase offspeed pitches that are down in the zone from left handers? Every team had some kind of plan by the end of the season last year, but over the offseason will have come up with an even better gameplan now. The league adjusts, the players adjust, the pitchers adjust, etc. This is the big leagues. As such, some have already written him off as being below average for the year…
However, I firmly believe in my boy Max.
I’m not going to lie, this spring training hasn’t been that great for Max. The expectation was for him to hit a few homers and that hasn’t happened. He did also have some forearm soreness for an unknown reason so it’s possible he was playing a little hurt/sore for a bit. However, if the last few games are any indication, he had some walks and some doubles. He’s making good contact.
One thing that I’ve noticed this spring training is that Max was being a little inpatient on those 3-2 pitches. I saw a few strikeouts where he chased an offspeed pitch, which I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t chase in the regular season. Additionally, he was a little animated and angry with himself after swinging at them.
I think Max is very critical of himself, especially when it comes to plate discipline. Out of all the metrics, I believe that his plate discipline and low chase rate is what makes him truly elite.
Long story short: Max is at his best when he takes his walks.
I think it places immense pressure on the pitcher to throw strikes. When you have a guy at the plate who will take 3 walks in a game and can take a 3-2 elevated fastball, it forces them to attack the strike zone. More so than that, at this level, the margin for error becomes even more razor thin.
So first you end up getting behind in the count trying to nab some corners, knowing full well that Max won’t swing at anything that isn’t a strike. All of the sudden it’s 2-0 or 3-1 and you’re forced to come back with a fastball or maybe a slider… you don’t want to walk this guy AGAIN. However, you know you can’t miss one way or the other. If you miss outside the zone he’ll just take it and if you miss over the plate, it’s a souvenir for the kid in the stands.
Then the next time you see him, you say ok, I’ve got to get ahead in the count this time. I’m gonna steal a strike with a fastball… but sometimes he’ll put that in the stands too…. see?
That’s when Max is the most dangerous. Walks make Max dangerous.
However, in spring training you don’t want walks, you want to get out there and make contact so that’s what Max was trying to do for most of it — and his strikeout rate shows it. That said, during the last few games of spring training, I think we’ve seen him settle down, ready to take his walks and get on base almost 40% of the time.
Walks will bring the home runs.
I noticed immediately that when Max came back to spring training he had dropped at least 10 lbs if not 15. He’s leaner and meaner at the plate. He was well aware of the comments that he was “slower” out there than others and that his fielding wasn’t up to par. I think he’s done a lot of work in the offseason and during spring training to prove to everyone that he deserves that 1st base spot.
He gets a lot of comments about his fielding and it’s not really fair. You can’t compare Max to someone like Cody Bellinger who is an elite 1st baseman, especially since Max has bounced around to different infield positions for the last few years. However, it seems like Dave Roberts has now told him “you’re our 1st baseman”, so he’s going to concentrate only on playing at first. I think he’ll surprise you with how good at 1st he can be.
For a guy who comes in day in and day out and quietly tries to improve himself everyday, how can you not root for the guy?
The short answer to my above question is “Max is fine”.
I believe in Max Muncy.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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