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Dodgers should explore making Max Muncy an everyday player, again

Incredible first half should not be dismissed

New York Mets v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Dodgers’ offense has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. One day it looks like the ‘27 Yankees, the next it looks like, well, the ‘03 Dodgers.

Setting aside the fact there have been some underachievers, their performance against left-handed pitching has been most concerning. Now, it isn’t 2016 levels of production (71 wRC+), but they do own a sub-100 wRC+ against southpaws this season (94).

One big reason is the fact Kiké Hernandez has forgotten how to hit lefties. He’s hitting just .231/.299/.396 with a 90 wRC+ against them. He had a 144 wRC+ against them last season. Another has been Austin Barnes’ complete collapse — from 136 wRC+ against lefties last season to 91 this season.

The funny thing is, the Dodgers might have the answer on the roster already. That is, if Max Muncy’s first half wasn’t a fluke.

His second-half struggles have been chronicled and lend some credence to his first half flukieness. For three weeks after the All-Star break, Muncy hit just .183/.265/.383 and struck out almost 40 percent of the time. The numbers since then aren’t that much better — .207/.288/.541 — but he his hitting for power, as evidenced by his slugging percentage. Even if he’s striking out 36.8 percent of the time, at least he’s hitting dingers.

Dodgers vs. LHP

Player PA OPS wRC+
Player PA OPS wRC+
Machado 66 1.073 184
Turner 108 1.038 183
Muncy (L) 104 0.964 158
Kemp 168 0.821 121
Grandal (S) 106 0.705 98
Taylor 177 0.718 96
Bellinger (L) 186 0.699 92
Barnes 121 0.682 91
Hernandez 188 0.696 90
Dozier 51 0.595 77
Seager (L) 40 0.660 76
Puig 135 0.621 68
Farmer 37 0.548 51
Forsythe 92 0.486 36
Pederson (L) 52 0.398 5
Totals 1,786 0.708 94

What’s crazy is, despite his up-and-down season, Muncy has the best wRC+ against left-on-left wRC+ in baseball at 158. That’s better than Freddie Freeman, Christian Yelich and Matt Carpenter — perhaps the top three candidates for NL MVP this season.

Since the non-waiver trade deadline, Muncy has started twice in 15 games against southpaws, after starting 17 of 33 games against lefties before that.

In 70 first-half plate appearances, Muncy posted a 203 wRC+ against lefties. In 34 second-half plate appearances, it’s down to 70. That’s an ugly number, but it’s also better than Cody Bellinger & Chris Taylor (57), Yasiel Puig (54), Hernandez (53) and Matt Kemp (52). It’s also just behind Brian Dozier’s 77. My point is: With the Dodgers’ struggle against lefties, why not run Muncy out there? Sure, they just acquired David Freese at the waiver trade deadline, but it isn’t like the guys penciled in at second base — Dozier, Hernandez and Taylor — are hitting much better. Yes, their defense isn’t comparable to Muncy’s at second base, but at least having the threat of a long ball in there couldn’t be a bad thing for the Dodgers.

Muncy may not be the Dodgers’ savior against lefties. He may not ever be the player he was through the first three and a half months of the season. But with the veterans ahead of him on the defensive depth chart struggling and the offense struggling to find consistency, maybe taking a chance on Muncy playing every day would benefit the Dodgers. I chose second base because that seems like the postion that has the most vacancy right now. But Muncy could play first base with Freese sliding over to third base if Justin Turner needed a day off.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s no rule against going back to the other guys.

It’s tough to see the offense struggling. Their team leader in home runs is, effectively, a platoon player. It just seems to me that doing something a little unconventional could provide a jolt. If it fails, so be it. But there’s no denying Muncy has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball, and his first half production — while not sustainable — cannot be forgotten as the Dodgers enter the season’s final three weeks.

It’d be nice if the guys known for ripping lefties remembered how to hit, but since that can’t be counted on ... something about desperate times and measures.