Are Max Muncy’s struggles a result of his elbow injury from 2021?

Thomas Carannante
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 12: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on against the Minnesota Twins on April 12, 2022 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 12: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on against the Minnesota Twins on April 12, 2022 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Dodgers fans spent most of the offseason worried about Max Muncy’s elbow injury, which was largely downplayed before he dropped the bombshell during the lockout that he had actually suffered a partially-torn UCL.

The rollercoaster continued when he was ready for action once spring training began and then logged enough reps to start on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies. Seriously … what’s going on?!

But it appears as if Muncy is not himself. Is it because of the elbow injury? It’s unclear … but it’s probably safest to assume that’s the reason why he’s among the worst hitters in MLB. That’s not a joke, either. It’s not time to panic, necessarily, but it’s appropriate to ask questions.

Through 21 games, Muncy is hitting .130 with a .571 OPS and 70 OPS+. His on-base percentage (.310) is his only saving grace. He’s slugging .261 with just five extra-base hits in his first 87 plate appearances.

Why is this concerning? Well, Muncy said back on March 14 that his elbow will need more time to heal … but he was on the field three weeks later for the team’s first game of the season. UCL injuries are especially tricky, because rehabbing them without surgery doesn’t always exactly work out.

Couple that with the fact Muncy’s current struggles are comparable to his awful 2016, which saw him get the boot from the Oakland Athletics and spend the entire 2017 season in the minors with the Dodgers, and his shortened 2020, which also wasn’t pretty.

What’s going on with Dodgers slugger Max Muncy and his struggles?

Here were his numbers from those two seasons:

  • 2016 – .186/.308/.257 with 13 runs scored, 2 homers, 8 RBI and a 59 OPS+ in 51 games (133 plate appearances)
  • 2020 – .192/.331/.389 with 36 runs scored, 12 homers, 27 RBI and a 95 OPS+ in 58 fames (248 plate appearances)

The difference here is that there’s an obvious factor that might be holding him back. In 2016, it was his mechanics and overall lack of experience. In 2020, it was the nature of the shortened season with the various obstacles that came with it. In 2022, the Dodgers arguably have the best lineup they’ve ever had and Muncy can’t buy a hit.

His penchant for drawing walks is still there! That’s good news. But that’s always been his strength, so this doesn’t really tell us whatever we need to know about his swing, which is why the discussion about the potential lingering effects of his elbow injury seems appropriate.

Maybe he’s getting unlucky and that’s part of it. On Tuesday night, he cranked one into right field that had a .460 expected batting average but flew out at the warning track. It happens. Then again, other advanced metrics prove his struggles are more indicative of his general play/approach. He’s not hitting the ball hard (51st percentile for average exit velocity, 38th percentile for max exit velocity, and 49th percentile for hard hit percentage) and really not making enough good contact (17th percentile for expected batting average).

The silver lining here is that the Dodgers’ lineup is so good that it can absorb a league-worst stretch of play from one of their top contributors. But it’d be great if the Dodgers got to the bottom of this before it enters the Cody Bellinger 2021 Zone.

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