Thursday, May 9

Muncy Is Again To Exhibiting Maximum Energy

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Max Muncy’s profession has had its ups and downs in recent times… or steps forwards and backwards, relying upon which airplane you favor for directional metaphors. Lately the slugger has been on a house run binge, one involving a mechanical tweak — a slight step backwards together with his left foot at the beginning of his swing — that he adopted final yr after which briefly deserted this spring.

This weekend, Muncy took over the main league lead in house runs with 11. He went yard 4 instances throughout the Dodgers’ four-game go to to Wrigley Field from Thursday by means of Sunday, beginning the festivities with a solo shot off starter Javier Assad on Thursday evening, including a pair of late-inning blasts off Mark Leiter Jr. and Brad Boxberger on Saturday (the primary of these a two-run homer), and capping his weekend with a two-run drive off Marcus Stroman on Sunday. The final of these gave the Dodgers the lead and helped them take three video games out of 4 from the Cubs.

Muncy’s sizzling streak didn’t simply start final Thursday; it’s been occurring for 2 weeks. After homering simply as soon as whereas going 4-for-33 in his first 9 video games, he bookended a three-game sequence at Oracle Park with a pair of two-homer video games, then homered in dropping causes in sequence openers towards the Cubs and Mets at Dodger Stadium.

So that’s 10 homers in a 13-game span, a spree exceeded final yr by solely Aaron Judge, who had three overlapping stretches with 11 homers in 13 video games, the primary of which started on July 14. Judge additionally had three such stretches with 10 homers and two with 9, all of which started in mid-July and had some overlap with the 11-homer streak. Mike Trout and Kyle Schwarber have been the one different gamers who had even one 13-game stretch with 9 homers. Muncy is the primary Dodger to homer 10 instances in 13 video games since Cody Bellinger did so in June 2017. He’s the second-fastest Dodger to 11 homers in a season, after Matt Kemp bashed 11 within the staff’s first 21 video games in 2012.

Muncy has hit .368/.510/1.158 in 49 plate appearances throughout this stretch, lifting his total line to .254/.411/.718, which locations him second within the NL in slugging share behind solely Brandon Marsh (.758) and third in wRC+ (193) behind Marsh (217) and Luis Arraez (199). Remarkably, these 11 homers symbolize everything of his extra-base hit complete; he hasn’t hit a double or a triple all season. The final participant with the same stretch was Joey Gallo, who whereas nonetheless a member of the Rangers homered 11 instances with no double or a triple in two overlapping 13-game stretches in 2021, the primary of which started on July 25; Schwarber had a 12-homer, 13-game jag with out another extra-base hits from June 12–24 (with a few overlaps) in 2021 as effectively. It’s bizarre, but it surely occurs.

Already, Muncy is greater than midway to final yr’s complete of 21 homers, and he’s gotten there by drawing upon one of many few positives he may take from what was a attempting marketing campaign. Recall that the slugger suffered a tear within the ulnar collateral ligament of his left elbow in a collision at first base on the ultimate day of the 2021 season, ending what had been an distinctive yr (.249/.368/.527, 36 homers, 139 wRC+) on a bitter notice, as he missed the playoffs. The tear wasn’t large enough to require offseason Tommy John surgical procedure, however whereas he was within the Opening Day lineup and totaled 136 video games in all, he scuffled mightily, hitting .158/.308/.304 (82 wRC+) by means of July 27. A two-week break resulting from a bout of elbow irritation adopted by a minor league rehab stint didn’t set him proper.

“The elbow was a huge issue,” Muncy advised the Los Angles Times‘ Mike DiGiovanna in March. “It didn’t want to move how I wanted it to move. It wasn’t cooperating. And even when it got healthy, it wasn’t moving [right] because of all the bad habits I created while trying to get healthy.”

On July 28 of final yr, hitting coach Aaron Bates labored with Muncy to implement a timing mechanism that Nolan Arenado had used. Via DiGiovanna:

Taking a half-step again together with his left foot because the pitch was delivered helped Muncy get his physique right into a place the place he “wasn’t working so uphill and so down underneath the ball,” he mentioned. “It was a radical way to do it, but I said, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Muncy bought a success the primary time he tried the brand new mechanism and batted .245/.357/.485 with 12 homers in 244 PA for a Muncy-like 138 wRC+ from that time to the top of the season. Yet he got here to spring coaching decided to maneuver past what labored final yr, believing it wasn’t sustainable. “I needed to forget everything that I did, because I didn’t want to do that going forward,” Muncy mentioned. “Even though it worked for me last year, I know that it’s not going to be the best solution for me. I had to revamp my swing last year, and now we’re un-revamping it to get it simpler again.”

Yet that try to undo what had labored led to Muncy’s gradual begin, he believed; not solely did he get simply 4 hits in his first 33 at-bats, he struck out 16 instances, together with 5 instances on Opening Day. Before the Dodgers’ April 10 sport towards the Giants, he introduced again a much less pronounced model of the mechanism, extra of a faucet again than a step again. The transfer paid quick dividends, as he clubbed a three-run homer off Logan Webb and a grand slam off Sean Hjelle that evening.

“This was just the easiest solution to fix things,” Muncy mentioned afterwards. “I was just in a good position to hit… The only thing I have to worry about is just getting my foot down on time instead of thinking about so many other things. It was just simplifying it, really, even though it’s more movement.”

Since the change, Muncy has struck out simply 22.5% of the time, a fee decrease than in any of his different seasons with the Dodgers aside from 2021, when he struck out simply 20.3% of the time. Meanwhile, he’s pasted the ball when he’s made contact, averaging 94.0 mph in exit velocity, with a 29.5% barrel fee (second within the majors behind Matt Chapman) and a 50% hard-hit fee. Those numbers are based mostly on 44 batted ball occasions, about six in need of the place barrel fee stabilizes. While his slash line is forward of his Statcast anticipated numbers, his .610 xSLG is nothing to sneeze at.

Nobody expects Muncy to take care of his lofty slugging share, however one factor that would assist hold his numbers up is the brand new anti-shift rule. The post-injury Muncy has been pulling the ball greater than at another level in his profession; he ranked fourth within the majors at 49.2% final yr, and is presently fourth at an astronomical 59.1% this yr. On pulled groundballs towards shifts, he hit simply .109 (7-for-64) final yr and .105 (18-for-171) over the past three years, which helps to account for his sub-Mendoza Line batting averages in 2020 and ’22. This yr, he’s already 2-for-9, and whereas that’s not an entire lot to hold one’s hat upon, that begin and a little bit of logic recommend he’ll decide up at the very least a couple of additional hits.

Even with their sequence victory over the Cubs, the Dodgers are simply 12-11 this yr, although that’s ok to tie them with the Diamondbacks for the NL West lead, half a sport forward of the Padres. It’s price stating that in each 2017 (after they gained 104 video games) and ’18 (after they gained 92), they went simply 11-12 over their first 23 video games but nonetheless reached the World Series, however neither this yr’s lineup nor its pitching employees seems to have the depth of these squads, as contributors equivalent to Trea Turner, Justin Turner, and Tyler Anderson are all sporting completely different colours now. These Dodgers significantly want Muncy to wield max energy, and the excellent news is that he’s doing simply that.

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