Dodgers’ reliance on Max Muncy’s recovery hasn’t been pleasant but it’s been well worth it

Muncy embodies modern baseball combined with the clutch gene. Take care of it.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ postseason in 2021 was wrecked before it even began. In Game 162, Max Muncy suffered a partly torn UCL in a collision at first base and would miss the rest of the season. That year, he was perhaps the team’s most valuable batter.

However, the injury was not disclosed at the time. It was only an elbow problem, but it was certainly bad enough to keep him out. Fans didn’t find out what Muncy’s true diagnosis was until much later in the offseason, when he informed MLB Network.

Then there was 2022. It was aggravating for the slugger, who struggled with mechanical challenges with his swing as a result of his elbow mobility after the injury. In 136 games, Muncy batted.191, had a.713 OPS, 100 OPS+, 21 home runs, and 141 strikeouts.

The Dodgers, however, did not give up hope. They picked up his 2023 team option and extended him through 2024 (another team option) before the season finished. While it was undoubtedly a long-term strategy to obtain the team’s money’s worth, it also provided security for a struggling Muncy. The Dodgers were hoping for a comeback.

Have they obtained the final version? Not at all. Muncy hasn’t had the most beautiful season. The veteran, on the other hand, is having an excellent season for the Dodgers.

Dodgers banking on Max Muncy rebound hasn’t been pretty, but it’s worth every penny

Muncy’s hitting average (.195) is still low after 94 games, but he’s walking a little more and slugging a lot more. He has 28 home runs and 75 RBI, which have overshadowed his low average and nine doubles. Power improvements, on the other hand, have increased his OPS to.819 and OPS+ to 117.

Perhaps the Dodgers recognized some good fortune coming Muncy’s way after what happened in 2022 (remember, the shift prohibition definitely helped with the mental component of his at-bats as well). According to Baseball Savant, Muncy’s advanced numbers have remained largely identical year over year. He’s still pounding the ball. He’s still doing a lot of walking. He’s still not chasing out-of-zone pitches. He’s still getting a lot of strikeouts.

His troubles against left-handed pitching have been well documented, but he has made up for it with his clutch bat. Muncy has been delivering with RISP, in late and close scenarios, in high leverage situations, and in tie games, outside of instances with two outs and runners in scoring position.

His game-tying home run in the eighth inning against the Rockies on Thursday night (against a left-handed reliever!) drove the Dodgers to a win, and it was his fifth straight home shot that either tied or gave his side the lead.

Is a clutch bat capable of launching 28 balls into orbit and producing 2.1 WAR worth $13.5 million to you? Will it be worth $10 million in 2024, when the Dodgers are expected to exercise Muncy’s team option?

Muncy can be difficult to watch at times, but his overall body of work speaks for itself, even when he’s failing (he was worth 2.7 WAR last year). The Dodgers’ patience has been a gain for everyone involved and is a driving force in what could be a historic 2023 season.