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2019 Dodgers Review: Max Muncy

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Max Muncy burst onto the scene in 2018 after being a minor-league signing each of the previous two seasons. There were questions about whether his ‘18 season was a fluke. His performance in 2019 emphatically answered that question.

Max Muncy is legit, folks.

What went right

Muncy was the Dodgers’ best position player not named Cody Bellinger. He got off to a solid start in March/April, posting an .808 OPS, but he really took off in May and June. He combined to hit .289/.393/.579 in those two months and gave him a strong .266/.366/.531 batting line at the All-Star break. Speaking of, Muncy made his first All-Star team after being in the Home Run Derby the at the previous Midsummer Classic.

He sputtered a bit in July. He had his lowest OPS month of the season (.776) at that time, but he came back with a strong August (.954 OPS) before closing the season with a .786 OPS.

It’s even more impressive if you consider his defense. Muncy came up last season and played third base when Justin Turner was hurt. He was so not-good that he was relegated to playing mostly first base. In 2019, Muncy not only played first-, second- and third base at an above-average clip. He logged 402 23 , 520 13 and 234 13 innings at first, second and third and posted +3, +5 and +5 defensive runs saved. To say Muncy was a +13 defender in 2019 means he made massive improvements from ‘18 to ‘19, or the DRS stat is imperfect. It’s probably a little more the latter than the former, but the fact that Muncy isn’t a complete liability at all three of those positions just increases his overall value.

Muncy also went 5-for-19 with three home runs in the Dodgers’ five-game loss in the NLDS against the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals.

What went wrong

Not a lot, honestly. Muncy is never going to win a batting title, so his .251 batting average is plenty acceptable, especially since it was accompanied by a .374 on-base percentage. If you want to nitpick, Muncy didn’t hit for as much power in ‘19. He had a .265 ISO after posting a .319 ISO in his first season with the Dodgers. However, it was still the 19th-best ISO among qualified MLB hitters. His fly ball rate also dropped a little (down 6.2 percentage points), but his line drive rate went up almost 3 points, so it wasn’t that big a deal. And now we’re getting really nitpicky here — his infield fly ball rate nearly doubled. He had 14 infield pop outs, comapred to just five in 2019. Meh.

2019 particulars

Age: 28

Stats: .251/.374/.515, 35 HR, 98 RBI, 101 R, 133 OPS+, 4.8 fWAR

Salary: $575,000

Game of the Year

I’ve made it this far into the Muncy review without mentioning the thing that most baseball fans know him for. No, it’s not that he’s the perfect embodiment of a rectangle, but what happened on June 9 in San Francisco.

Muncy should get a lifetime contract just for that.

He’ll have a chance to tell Madison Bumgarner to go get it out of the pool for the next five years, as Bumgarner signed with the Diamondbacks this winter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Muncy’s best game of the season. On Aug. 4, he went 4-for-5 with a home runs, two doubles and three RBIs in an 11-10 win over the Padres. His win probability added was .907 — more than double his second-best game of the season. (Aug. 21; .419).

Roster status

Muncy is in his first year of arbitration. The exchange deadline was Friday. Instead of the Dodgers just agreeing to a deal with him, they’re haggling over $675,000. Muncy submitted at $4.675 million, while the Dodgers have countered at $4 million. Pretty good idea to be screwing around over that little money (baseball-wise). But hey, I’m not in charge.