Max Muncy Has Completely Fallen Apart
Two years ago, Max Muncy looked like a low-cost franchise cornerstone for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two-time All-Star was an OPS machine who, while not a great defender, was versatile around the diamond. Then, like fellow presumed franchise cornerstone Cody Bellinger, his play fell off a cliff. After a truly disastrous 2022, Muncy has started 2023 in the tank. That's not great news for a Dodgers team trying to keep pace in the National League West.
Muncy debuted with the Oakland A's in 2015, and played sparingly that season and in 2016. He did nothing remarkable at the MLB level and the A's dumped him. The Dodgers picked him up in April of 2017 and rebuilt his game. He rewarded them by breaking out in a big way in 2018.
Muncy slashed .263/.391/.582 with a still career-best .973 OPS in 2018. It was his first full season in the big leagues (137 games) and he blasted 35 home runs and drove in 79 runs. He was even better in 2019, when he slashed .251/.374/.515 with 35 home runs and 98 RBI. The COVID-shortened 2020 season was a bad one, as he put up a .192/.331/.389 line, but a lot of good players had bad stats that campaign due to the weirdness of it all.
Muncy bounced back in a big way in 2021, slashing .249/.368/.527 with a career-high 36 home runs and 94 RBI. He posted a career-best fWAR of 4.8. However, he dislocated his elbow late in the season and missed the playoffs. He hasn't been the same since.
In 2022, Muncy was straight awful. He hit .196 with an on-base percentage of .329 but perhaps most alarming, his slugging percentage dropped to .384, his lowest for a full season. His .713 OPS was also his career-low for a full campaign. He had 21 home runs, 69 RBI and 141 strikeouts in 136 games. His fWAR of 2.4 was far below his All-Star numbers, but many expected an eventual bounce-back. It doesn't appear to be coming.
So far in 2023, the 32-year-old looks really bad. In nine games he's 4-for-33 at the plate, with one extra base hit (a home run). He's hitting .121m with a .293 on-base percentage and is slugging a horrendous .212. His OPS of .505 is laughably bad and he has 16 strikeouts in 41 total plate appearances. Not great, folks.
Is this simply a case of a guy hitting his ceiling then getting hurt and losing it? Quite possibly. The drop-off hasn't been as dramatic as Bellinger's but it has been pretty close. The Dodgers need Muncy to figure it out if they hope to win the NL West for the ninth consecutive season.