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The Dodgers Have a Perfect Leadoff Hitter

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GLENDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 11: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers gets ready in the batters box during a spring training game against San Francisco Giants at Camelback Ranch on March 11, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

As the Dodgers’ roster is currently constructed, they don’t have a “traditional” leadoff hitter. The favorite to leadoff is A.J. Pollock, but I already discussed why that wouldn’t be ideal, and Joc Pederson, who also isn’t ideal.

But they do have the perfect leadoff hitter on their roster: Max Muncy.

Muncy, a 28-year-old, left-handed hitter, broke out in a big way during the 2018 season. He hit .263/.391/.582 with 35 home runs, a .407 wOBA, and 5.2 WAR. His offensive production was 62 percent better than league average, according to his wRC+. He was one of the top hitters in baseball last season, and while it was a fairly small sample of 137 games and 481 PA’s, it’s really hard to fake that kind of season. Even with some regression, he’s still an elite hitter.

So what makes Muncy the perfect leadoff hitter? His on-base skills, power, and speed.

On-Base Skills

Muncy gets on base; A lot. Last season, he was on base 39 percent of his plate appearances. That would put him just behind Justin Turner for second on the team. His on-base percentage is fueled by his 16.4 percent walk rate so even if his average is lower than most people would want, he’d likely still post a quality on-base percentage. He’s shown the discipline to take walks throughout the minors so there is no reason it should change now.

A player getting on base that much, with Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Turner, and Pollock behind him, is going to score a lot of runs.

Last season, the Dodgers used a lot of low on-base players, which likely hurt their offense and decreased their run-scoring abilities. They shouldn’t go back to using a .320 OBP near the top of their lineup.

Some people might say Muncy strikes out too much or his average is too low to leadoff, but neither of those matter when he’s still getting on base at a rate comparable to the top players in the game. The goal for a leadoff hitter is to get on base any way possible; Muncy does that.


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Power

Traditionally, power out of the leadoff spot has always been looked down on. Now, more teams are enjoying the idea of having some pop to open the game.

The leadoff hitter also gets the most at-bats on the team. Giving those extra at-bats to a player who can put himself in scoring position, or even bring himself in on one swing, just maximizes run-scoring potential.

The Dodgers have so much power in their lineup, Muncy’s power won’t be “wasted” by leading him off.

The Dodgers already bought into the idea of power out of the leadoff spot last season when they used Pederson there. Now, they can perfect it.

Speed

Muncy looks slow, but he isn’t. According to Statcast’s sprint speed metric, Muncy is in the 63 percentile of the league average speed and he’s the fifth fastest Dodger on the roster with a 27.6 feet per second speed.

He won’t steal 30 bags, but the Dodgers don’t steal much anyways, and he won’t even need to with all the extra base hits he will provide.

The idea that a leadoff hitter has to be fast is also a flawed one. A leadoff hitter’s job is to get on base. Stealing bases is nice but it doesn’t increase run expectancy by a large amount (+0.21 runs) while getting caught drops run expectancy by a lot (-.59 runs).

Muncy is fast enough where he won’t “clog” the bases and he’s fast enough to take an extra base on a hit. He has more than enough speed to fill the leadoff role.

Recap

Max Muncy’s skill set doesn’t make him a traditional leadoff hitter but it does make him the ideal leadoff hitter. If he regresses a lot, they can always drop him down in the order, or even out of the lineup. But as of right now, with opening day just a few days away, Muncy needs to leadoff for the team starting on day one. They can’t go back to .320-.330 on-base players at the top of their lineup anymore.

Recommended Lineup:

  1. (L) Max Muncy 1B
  2. (R) Justin Turner 3B
  3. (L) Corey Seager SS
  4. (R) A.J. Pollock CF
  5. (L) Cody Bellinger RF
  6. (R) Enrique Hernandez 2B
  7. (L) Joc Pederson/(R) Chris Taylor LF
  8. (R) Austin Barnes C

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

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  1. Muncy’s stats last season when leading off an inning (100 plate appearances): .200/.320/.400/.720. With runners in scoring position: .293/.422/.576/.999. I think you want Muncy somewhere in the lineup other than leadoff. In my opinion, Alex Verdugo has the right skill set to be an effective leadoff hitter, but not ideal. In the near future, Gavin Lux is my pick for lead off.

    • Muncy would be good there. Don’t use some obscure segment of his performance to prove a point. His hitting speaks for itself, the guy is plain good. Hits opposite field and runs well as the article pointed out. Pollock is pretty good there too. Pederson is a mistake.

      • Obsure? ALOL! It isn’t obscure, it is a fact that is easily found! But don’t let facts get in the way of your argument.

  2. Why does Pederson leadoff? For that matter… oh never mind! Why has Turner been batting 2nd? Is Pollock a leadoff hitter or not? Who should bat 4 & 5. Is Verdugo a more versatile hitter and better defender than Pederson? If so why…… oh never mind!

  3. Good thing your not manager. Verdugo is better than Pederson or Taylor and a better defender and a better fit than Muncy as lead-off .

  4. KIKI HERNANDEZ WOULD TURN OUT BEING AN EXCELLENT LEAD OFF BATTER GIVE HIM THE OPPERTUNITY AND HELL ARISE TO THE OPPERTUNITY.

  5. Verdugo end of discussion but of course this illogical organization has Adam Dunn without the 40 hrs hogging up LF once again

  6. If your logic about Muncy is typical of your thinking, then good luck on graduating from college. The real question is why is Pederson even on the team.

  7. how did muncy get qualified in managements eyes?…….I thought he played quite well barring the bad info from the manager but somehow managed to lead the team in home runs and 2nd with on-base percentage…..might not be a super star but is a player I would like in my line-up every day

  8. corey seager, kiki hernandez, Pederson and ct3 are swinging away at everything except a ball right over the middle of the plate. Isn’t any body on the team willing to tell them to slow down copy Jason turner maybe?

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