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Dodgers: Could Max Muncy Be The Key At Third Base?

All this 3B talk…

In my last article, I outlined the reasons third base is such a focus for the Dodgers to upgrade. Justin Turner’s defense has waned; his offense is good, but not great; and the Dodgers would like another power hitting right-handed batter in the line-up. While he’s not a right-handed hitter, moving Max Muncy to third could be a viable option.

Defense

A look at the defensive stats of all third basemen to play 200+ innings last year, Turner wins out over Muncy in some of the classic analysis methods. For example, Muncy committed 6 errors at third. Turner committed 8. The difference though, is Turner’s 8 came over the course of 1,023 innings at the position. Muncy’s 6 errors came over the course of just 234 innings. Furthermore, Muncy’s fielding percentage for those few innings at third was .929 while Turner’s was .973.

Even though errors committed and fielding percentage leans in Turner’s favor, defensively there’s definitely a case to be made for shifting Muncy to third. Muncy’s DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) was 5 to Turner’s -7. Muncy’s UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) was 0.2, Turner’s was -6.7. Before the previous two statistics were used for defensive analysis, their predecessor RZR (Revised Zone Rating) also went in Muncy’s favor. RZR has been described by Fangraphs as “the proportion of balls hit to the fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out”. Muncy’s RZR actually led all 57 players to log 200+ innings at third, with a .831 RZR. Justin Turner’s was 36th at .703.

Granted Max Muncy didn’t even log a quarter of the time Turner did at third, but the new analytics do favor him. Also, given his improved overall defense in 2019, it can be expected that regular time at 3rd could reflect similar stats.

Offense

I won’t go into a comparative stat rant between Max and JT, they both produce offensively. Moving either one shouldn’t impact that. In 2019, Max Muncy put to rest any notion that his 2018 was a fluke. The slugger slashed .251/.374/.515 while hitting 35 home runs to go with 98 RBIs. His 90 walks were second most on the Dodgers and same goes for his .889 among the players who played in 80+ games. In fact, in the National League, Muncy ranked seventh in walks, 12th(T5) in HR, 13th in RBIs, 14th in OBP, and 17th in OPS in 2019.  That’s top 17 in 5 major offensive categories amongst all NL players and certainly the kind of offense the Dodgers are hoping to acquire at third base. The problem is, Muncy is not a right-handed batter, or is it?

Ripple Effect

Shifting Muncy to third has the potential to open up other possibilities. Primarily, it allows the Dodgers to seek that right-handed bat in other ways. While I’m personally against it, trading Corey Seager for Francisco Lindor who hits from either side of the plate, becomes more of an option for the adding right-handed power. It also, opens up the outfield for improvement. Moving AJ Pollock for a younger, less injury prone outfielder like a Mookie Betts or Nicholas Castellanos could be a nice focus. Even swapping Pederson for one of them could be an upgrade since they hit both righty’s and lefty’s well. Best yet, move both of them to relieve some of the outfield surplus.

A beneficiary of shifting Muncy to third would be Gavin Lux. By the end of 2019, Gavin Lux appeared to have done all there was to be done in the minors. If the “2019 Minor League Player of the Year” is continue developing the Dodgers need him to be playing regularly against the best. Without moving Muncy to third and Turner to first, it creates a log jam at second base and will limit the playing time of Lux.

Final Thoughts

While there is a defensive benefit to shifting Max Muncy to third as well as the added bonus of the aforementioned ripple effects, it’s not the answer. Offensively it only relocates the power numbers, it does not add to them. Additionally, the Dodgers do not GAIN a right-handed bat out of it. That has to come by way of a trade or free agent signing. Signing a free agent alone, only adds to the Dodgers bottle neck at nearly any position. Although painful, a trade will still be necessary.

So who goes?

The gracefully, yet unfortunately aging, Turner? The “not really his fault, but still always injured”, Pollock?  The right-handed pitching clubber, Pederson? The highly sought after talents, Verdugo or Lux?  One or both of the super-utility’s, Kiké or Taylor? Seager?

The Dodgers are notorious depth hoarders and in recent years very frugal. They want to keep their young talent, but are also seemingly attached to their veterans and players who have been clutch for them in the past. That being said, they also want to improve. Well, in the words of Earl Smooter,

You can't ride two horses with one ass, sugarbean.

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.

Comments

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  1. Flipping Turner and Muncy is, like you say, the infield answer. Muncy’s fielding percentage will improve with more playing time (and consecutive game time) at third. Rendon is great, but acquiring him takes playing time away from both Lux and Muncy. We have a great opportunity to trade Joc, if necessary, for a similar RH batter or a solid reliever. The White Sox could use him. There are other teams out there, too. We could even trade for a good prospect. And then give a shot to Rios or Peters in spring training. Anyway, good, solid article.

  2. I completely disagree, when JT is in the line up he gets the whole team going. Been proven every year he has been a Dodger. Muncy needs to stay at first

  3. 1B Muncy
    2B Lux
    SS Seager
    3B Turner
    What’s the issue? The log jam would happen by signing Rendon or trading for Lindor. It’s not going to change much besides a right handed bat and spending all that money or trading the farm for Lindor isn’t worth it. We need a stud starting pitcher but Cole or Stras aren’t going to sign a short term contract with us. Think it’s going to be another quiet winter.

    • Sure fire Roberts he really sucks. But Lindor solves various issues, right handed bat, Leadoff hitter, Steals bases and Superior defense. Those are key issues. Seager is ranked very low at shortstop defense. Turner’s defense was also the worst he has ever posted. These things mean a lot. Can’t have the same as the last few years and expect different results. Worst decision ever was extending Roberts.

  4. Keep the infield personnel the same but switch out 1B & 3B doesn’t take away from Robert’s statement re: Turner’s value to the team. We still need a RH bat. I’d like to see an OF of Belli/Verdugo/Betts….as good as any OF in NL.
    And more than SP, there’s the BP….Hmmmm…. Oh Geeeee…WE NEED A CLOSER!

  5. Interesting article. But I think it misses the point. First, let’s all agree that Bellinger’s days at first are over except for occasional fill in roles. His speed, fielding, and rocket arm, belong in right or center field. Turner to first and Muncy to third accomplishes little other than opening up second base to Lux. Here’s the problem. Lux is another left-handed batter in an already lefty heavy batting order. The Dodgers need a right handed power hitter. Lux hit 240 with 2 HR in 75 at bats. That doesn’t phase me though. He’ll improve. But he won’t become a right handed hitter, which is what the Dodgers need to counterbalance Bellinger, Muncy, Pederson, and Seager. Simple logic says that Lux is your biggest trading chip. And Cleveland wants him. I would trade him for Lindor and try to get Kluber too in package deal, and move Seager to third. But understand that Lindor isn’t a perfect fit either. 24 of his 32 HR came from left side. His BA was 297 from left and 258 from right. In short he is a left handed batter who can hold his own from the right side. Rendon is a perfect fit. But real expensive.

    • Right on here! Muncy to 3rd solves very little and if no other RHB is acquired via trade or FA, Dodgers will remain too LH heavy and will struggle against LHP and thus here comes the platooning. Having Roberts back for 2020 IMHO is a real problem in of itself too. and as Fire Dave Roberts says, its going to be another quiet Winter.

    • Past history shows teams are better off keeping prospects rather than trading them for veteran players. Kluber is going to be 34 next year and a FA at the end. He isn’t ever going to be the pitcher he was. He’s lost mph on his fastball. Makes no sense to include him in any trade unless he a throw in, not likely.

  6. Mookie Betts should be seriously considered by the Dodgers. You don’t have to get the right handed power hitter they need only by an infield aquisition. Betts is a great hitter for average with good power. He is also outstanding defensively.
    Betts and Bellinger every day in center and right, with a platoon in left would be awesome.

  7. Max is a great hitter with a below average arm and defense to play 3rd base. Max would be an excellent designated hitter in the American league. Recommend that Max be traded for pitching. Finally, keep Justin Turner at 3rd base.

    • Gee once again Tightwad Friedman gets outbid for a premier player. Imagine that. Now he can focus on the garbage that’s left. When is this idiot going to get his walking papers?

  8. It is interesting to me that people bemoan the fact that the Dodgers are primarily Left handed hitters. What they need to look at is how the hitter performed rather the repeat the incorrect information of the last uninformed person that it is a Horrible problem. By the way the greatest Dodger Infield Garvey, Cey Russel and Lopes if I remember right were all right handed…
    Verdugo hit better against Left Handed pitching last year in Avg, SLG, OBP &OPS. Muncy was better in Avg, SLG and OPS and a little lower in OBP. Belli was lower but still at an elite number at 280 Avg, 386 OBP, 596 SLG, 983 OPS. If you look at Lux’s minor league numbers he was lower against Left Handed pitching but his numbers were so astronomical it doesn’t matter. And he won 2019 Minor League player of the Year! Why do people want to trade him? Will Smith also hit Left handed pitching better in the minors last year. He did not do well at the MLB level but it is a very small sampling.
    Seager is about 30 points lower against Left handed pitching and had a tough year. The funny part to me is When the Dodgers had right handed Puig he was terrible against left handed pitching. And Pollock was 0 for every at bat with his right handed bat in the playoffs….Look at he numbers. By the way one of the right handed favorites Donaldson hit 215 against left handed pitching. Gotta look at the stats people.

  9. Has anyone considered playing Muncy in left field? If Turner then moved to 1st, 3rd base would be open for a right handed bat. But I wouldn’t spend big money for Rendon if you could use that money for Cole or Strasburg. They need another ace starter more than anything if they hope to win the WS.

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