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Max Muncy straying from the strike zone during his slump

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“We’ve got to get him back in the strike zone,” Dave Roberts said. “That’s when he’s at his best.”

Los Angeles Dodgers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Max Muncy will almost certainly be back in the Dodgers lineup on Tuesday against the Rockies, after getting most of the previous two days off. The team doesn’t play at Chase Field until this weekend, but for the last month every stadium has been chase field for Muncy.

He was out of the lineup on Sunday after back-to-back hitless, three-strikeout games. Muncy has only six such games all season, but four have come in September. Muncy did end up appearing as a pinch-hitter in the series finale against the Reds, but it was a painful experience, getting plunked on his right elbow pad in the ninth inning.

Strikeouts have gone way up for Muncy in the last month, hitting just .168/.234/.406 over his last 28 games.

Max Muncy’s 2021 plate discipline

Dates BA/OBP/SLG Chase rate BB rate K rate
Dates BA/OBP/SLG Chase rate BB rate K rate
Through Aug. 18 .276/.408/.575 18.0% 15.9% 18.2%
Aug. 19-present .168/.234/.406 24.1% 7.2% 29.7%
Sources: Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

“It’s very clear. I think he has an elite ability to look over a baseball and stay in the strike zone. The last 30 days, he’s chased,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday. “He’s running into some homers, which has been great, but I think he’s more than a one-dimensional home run hitter. He’s an on-base guy, he uses all fields.”

Through August 18, Muncy’s O-Swing%, the frequency of offering at pitches outside the strike zone, was 18 percent, second-lowest in baseball. Since August 19, Muncy has chased 24.1 percent of such pitches. Relative to the league it’s not so bad, the 16th-lowest among 162 qualified batters. But it’s not Muncy at his best.

Muncy homered twice last week, his 34 long balls ranking third in the National League, and one off his career high. But even with the home runs he was 4-for-20 on the week with eight strikeouts. His strikeout rate is just shy of 30 percent over the last month, after 18 percent through the middle of August.

“You don’t ever want to think anyone is chasing numbers. I just think literally and figuratively he’s chasing, and he’s expanding,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to get him back in the strike zone. That’s when he’s at his best.”