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

Muncy is the embodiment of modern baseball mixed with the clutch gene. Deal with it.
Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Dodgers
Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Dodgers / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Back in 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers' postseason was derailed before it even started. Max Muncy suffered a partially-torn UCL in a collision at first base in Game 162 and would miss the remainder of the season. He was arguably the team's most important hitter that year.

At the time, however, the injury wasn't revealed. It was just an elbow issue that was clearly serious enough to keep him sidelined. Fans didn't learn until much later that offseason what the actual diagnosis was when Muncy told MLB Network.

Then came 2022. It was frustrating for the slugger, who battled mechanical issues with his swing as a result of his elbow mobility following the injury. Muncy finished with a .191 average, .713 OPS, 100 OPS+, 21 homers and 141 strikeouts in 136 games.

But the Dodgers didn't lose faith. Before the season ended, they picked up his 2023 team option and extended him through 2024 (another team option). While it was certainly a long-term play for the team to get its money's worth, it also provided security for a struggling Muncy. The Dodgers were banking on a bounce back.

Have they gotten the ultimate version of that? Not really. It hasn't been the prettiest season for Muncy. But the Dodgers are certainly getting an appropriately good season from the veteran.

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

Through 94 games, Muncy's batting average (.195) is still gross, but he's walking a bit more and slugging a lot more. He has 28 homers and 75 RBI, which has masked his poor average and concerningly low number of doubles (nine). Improvements with his power, however, have upped his OPS to .819 and OPS+ to 117.

Perhaps the Dodgers saw a bit of luck headed back Muncy's way after what transpired in 2022 (remember, the shift ban has probably helped with the mental aspect of his at-bats, too). Muncy's advanced metrics, per Baseball Savant, are essentially unchanged year over year. He's still hitting the ball hard. He's still walking a ton. He's still not chasing pitches out of the zone. He's still striking out a ton.

His struggles against left-handed pitching have been well-documented, but he's offset those woes with his clutch bat. Outside of situations with two outs and runners in scoring position, Muncy has been delivering with RISP, in late and close situations, in high leverage situations, and in tie games.

His game-tying home run in the eighth inning against the Rockies on Thursday night (against a left-handed reliever!) propelled the Dodgers to a victory and represented his fifth straight blast that has either tied the game or given his team the lead.

Is a clutch bat that's sent 28 balls into orbit and has been good for 2.1 WAR worth $13.5 million to you? Will it be worth $10 million in 2024 when the Dodgers likely pick up Muncy's team option?

Sometimes Muncy's a difficult watch, but his overall body of work speaks for itself, even when he's struggling (last year he was worth 2.7 WAR). The Dodgers exercising patience has been a win for everybody involved and is a driving force in what could be a special 2023 campaign.