Happy 2023, TBLA readers! Can you smell spring training in the air yet? Pitchers and catchers start reporting around February 14 — what a lovely valentine for us all. We’re picking up right where we left off on our Dodger Greats series with Max Muncy and Adrián Beltré, two third basemen with dramatically different seasons.
Third Base: Max Muncy and Adrián Beltré
Max Muncy’s 2022 season was his seventh in the majors, and 2004 was Adrián Beltré’s. The difference is that Beltré, who was 19 when he debuted, was only 25 and played in 156 games; Muncy was 31 and appeared in 136 games.
Across the board, Beltré almost knocks Muncy out of the water. He had 200 hits and a best-in-the-majors 48 homers in 2004, while Muncy managed just 21. It’s no surprise, given Muncy’s .196 batting average on the season. The pair are a bit more evenly matched on doubles (32 for Beltré, 22 for Muncy) and on-base percentage (.388 and .329, respectively).
So, what happened? Muncy spent much of 2022 recovering from an elbow injury, enduring a slow start to the season while he got used to playing again. He managed to pick things back up in July by adjusting his swing, finishing up with an August slash line of .261/.352/.554.
Beltré, meanwhile, was in his prime in 2004 — and after all, our goal here is to look at former players’ best seasons in comparison to their 2022 counterparts. It was the most productive season by a Dodgers position player in the team’s history, according to FanGraphs, as evidenced by Beltré’s 9.7 WAR. He finished fourth in the National League in batting and RBI (.334 and 148, respectively) along with those 48 homers, making him a serious contender for Triple Crown status.
“He had no weakness as a player,” teammate Shawn Green told the Los Angeles Times in 2018.
Here’s a deeper look at Beltré and Muncy at the plate:
Beltré vs. Muncy on Offense
Awards and Honors
In 2004, Beltré finished second in MVP voting. He also won a Silver Slugger award, and it’s almost puzzling that he wasn’t selected to the All-Star Game. Though Munch had his own MVP contender season last year (he finished 10th in voting), this year’s necessary recovery process meant he missed out on major honors.
Muncy hopped around quite a bit this season, spending time at second base, designated hitter, and first base in varying capacities. The bulk of his games — 84 total — were at third. Beltré, meanwhile, played third for all but one of his 156 games in 2004. Because of the disparity, we’ll concentrate on stats per nine innings to make this a bit fairer.
In 2004, the league-wide range factor (putouts plus assists) over nine innings was 2.76; Beltré exceeded that easily, with a 2.97 personal range factor. Muncy, meanwhile, was right at the average mark, with an RF/9 of 2.68 compared to the league’s 2.70 figure. The same holds true for fielding percentages: Beltré was above average at .978, while Muncy hung in there with a .955.
Here’s more on their defensive stats:
Beltré vs. Muncy on Defense