Max Muncy is not off to a hot start for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2023. He kickstarted his season in the worst way possible, becoming just the second player in MLB history to strike out five times on Opening Day.
Things have not turned around quite yet for the one-time All-Star. Muncy has posted a negative WAR this season, as he is hitting .121 thus far with a league-leading 16 strikeouts. Muncy has struck out in 39% of his plate appearances thus far in 2023.
The struggles extend past his performance at the plate as well. Muncy has been made the full-time third baseman this season with Justin Turner in Boston, and the results have not been great. Muncy already has two errors on his ledger, and very obviously looks uncomfortable at the hot corner.
While Muncy has admitted that he can be playing better in the field, he also did not shy away from bringing up an external factor for his fielding woes thus far this season. Muncy brought up Dodger Stadium's new playing turf as an explanation for the difficult hops he has been getting at the hot corner in 2023 (h/t Bill Plunkett, OC Register).
"I’m not going to make any excuses, but Jordan (Lorenz), our groundskeeper, did say they planted an entire new field and because of the cold and the rainy weather, it hasn’t had a chance to set in yet. So there have been a couple where balls have hit seams in the grass and bounced one way or another, but from the grass to third is different than it’s been in years past. Once we get some warm weather, that will go away."- Max Muncy
Dodgers' Max Muncy blames Dodger Stadium for defensive woes
To be fair to Muncy, the two errors that he has recorded thus far this season were both recorded at Dodger Stadium, so he might be on to something. But then again, Muncy has shown in other instances that it is not necessarily the field's fault for his struggles at third base.
Plus, it is not like Muncy has ever really been a good fielder at third base. It would be one thing if Muncy was normally a sound fielder, and this represented only a bad start in a small sample size. That is not the case at all, as Muncy's struggles predated 2023.
Muncy played a lot of third base in 2022, with Turner playing a lot more designated hitter for the Dodgers. In his over 700 innings at the hot corner, Muncy recorded 10 errors. There were 23 players in MLB that recorded at least 700 innings at third base last season; Muncy ranked 20th in fielding percentage and 21st in FanGraph's UZR statistic.
It is beyond obvious that Muncy simply is not a third baseman. So while he can blame the infield grass all he wants, fans should not be getting their hopes up that things will suddenly turn around when the weather heats up.