On April 17th, a Greek God with a bat in his hands fell out of the sky and into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lap. The next night, he homered; and it would be foreshadowing of what was to come. Maxwell Steven Muncy has been so good in 2018 – that his season bWAR of 3.8 tops his career bWAR of 3.6.
The man may or may not have had a Wikipedia page prior to this season. And now, he’s become the Dodgers most effective run producer. We’re here to make the case for Muncy as an every day player. There’s been a lot of discussion that the Dodgers are pushing all the right buttons with their platoon lineups.
Even recently, the national headlines said that the Dodgers ‘success was built on sacrifice’. This of course means good players like Muncy (and there are others you can make a case for not platooning aside from Turner and Machado) sitting against lefties. This post is to tell you that in the case of Muncy; the logic is wrong and merely non-existent.
Max Muncy Has Crushed Left-Handed Pitching in 2018
The bold text really says it all, but we’ll give a deeper look. Muncy has an OPS+ of 155 against left-handers this season and an OPS of .922. Who does that put Muncy in territory with? Nelson Cruz (.923 OPS), Javier Baez (.923), Freddie Freeman (.925), and Aaron Judge (.925) to throw some names out there at you. Do those guys sit every day against southpaws? They do not. It’s plausible that if they did, media types would speculate that it was borderline insanity. The sample size of Muncy’s body of work isn’t all that small, either. This is based upon 112 plate appearances.
The Guys Playing Over Muncy Simply Aren’t Better
When Max Muncy sits, one of several things usually happen on the lineup card.
- Brian Dozier is the second baseman, Cody Bellinger is at first base.
- Kiké Hernandez is the second baseman, Cody Bellinger is at first base.
- Brian Dozier is the second baseman, Kiké Hernandez is the first baseman.
- Kiké or Dozier at second base, David Freese plays first base.
There are all kinds of arguments that you can make for any of the above happening. It won’t be a good argument with good supporting points – but you’re welcome to take a shot at it.
Others have done so – but they failed to make a point at why Muncy sits at all. In fact, they were in agreement with Muncy playing everyday as well.
Muncy stands out as a potential boon to the lineup that seems underutilized at the present. He’s pounding both righties and lefties, and while the sample size is too small to say he’s legit in both respects, it’s fair to say he has earned the shot to prove himself. Muncy should basically always play against righties, and while there are defensive concerns to consider, he could either start at second over a struggling and maybe hurt Brian Dozier or at first over Freese (and definitely whenever JT has to rest).
The sample size really isn’t a problem. Baez is going to get NL MVP votes in a few weeks, and he has 139 plate appearances against lefties. He plays every day, he can hit lefties with the best of them; just like Muncy. David Freese is around .300 lifetime against lefties – and in 140 plate appearances against them this season – his OPS sits at .827. Edge, Muncy.
Honestly the case for Hernandez or Dozier is so weak, it’s hard to make at all. Hernandez is thought to mash left-handers, his OPS in 207 plate appearances is .734. Dozier rarely sits at a position Muncy has played, and he checks in at .666 in 182 plate appearances. But, defense you say? I am simply willing to roll the dice and say that Muncy’s offense is good enough to make up for any lapse or gap in defense that any of the three discussed above provide.
As I have laid out, the Dodgers are sitting an offensive version of Nelson Cruz or Freddie Freeman on a regular basis against lefties. This isn’t questionable, it’s downright absurd.
Muncy Loses Effectiveness Coming Off The Bench
Every time it seems like Max Muncy gets rolling (and Cody Bellinger to a degree), the Dodgers face a run of left-handed starting pitchers. When that happens, Dave Roberts and the organization give the opposition a pardon and sit Muncy. While there is no tangible stat for ‘rhythm’ or how are you for several days following several days off, I’m telling you the effect is real.
If you have played baseball in high school and beyond, you know how hard it is to remain consistent when not playing regularly. You also know it’s difficult to come off the bench after sitting cold for seven or eight innings and hit off a reliever with high velocity. Muncy’s stats reflect this – he’s posted a solid but not stellar OPS of .862 when facing a reliever for the first time in 187 plate appearances. As a pinch hitter, he drops to a .211 average. This is because pinch-hitting is hard; even for a great offensive player like Muncy.
The Dodgers aren’t going to stop this practice at this juncture. They have shown their hand for far too long to think we will see Muncy playing against lefties in postseason games or while trying to clinch a pennant down the stretch. My reasoning as a baseball guy of 30 years; simply saying that I have never seen the super-sub strategy employed to regularly and to such an extreme, is not going to be good enough for most. The bottom line is whether I like it or not, it’s not good; and a case for it being good cannot be proven. I would love for someone in extensive detail to put Dave Roberts on the spot and ask why this is happening.
The organization has starved a masher of what should have been a monstrous anomaly season by stamping out his appearances. I think it’s unfortunate – and while I hope it works out for the best – I will continue to bang the table for Muncy being my every day guy in the middle of the lineup. The silence in all spectrums has gone on far too long. I am proud to be the fellow who breaks that silence for my guy, Max Muncy.
[button color=”yellow” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-building-a-playoff-bullpen-tr0864/2018/09/19/”]Building A Playoff Bullpen[/button]