In spite of a number of individual performances that undoubtedly held the team back, the Los Angeles Dodgers won a franchise record 111 games in 2023. But all of that caught up to them in the postseason when they fell to the San Diego Padres in the NLDS.
The biggest adverse effect on the Dodgers' 2022 roster was Max Muncy's fall from Team MVP in 2021 to replacement-level player the very next year. And it was all because he suffered a UCL tear in Game 162 during the 2021 season because the fraudulent Giants just had to win 107 games with a roster that overachieved in frustrating fashion.
Muncy should've never been playing in that game, but what's done is done. Fans were kept in the dark about his injury for most of the playoffs/offseason, too. It was initially reported he could return for the NLCS or World Series if the Dodgers made it, but that couldn't have been further from the truth.
Then, just weeks before spring training, Muncy revealed on MLB Network that he'd suffered a partially-torn UCL and that he was behind in his rehab. That alone threw the 2022 season off course. There was no chance he'd be ready in time, and even if he was, it would've taken him months to return to a semblance of his former self.
Turns out ... that's exactly what happened! Muncy didn't start picking up the slack until August. He had a dreadful four months to begin the year, and even with inflated August/September showings, he still finished slashing .196/.329/.384 with 69 runs scored, 21 home runs and 69 RBI in 136 games. More than half of those home runs and RBI came in his final 53 games.
On a more positive note, however, Muncy provided an update on his elbow this week that could be a game-changer for the 2023 Dodgers -- something the team was undoubtedly hoping for.
Dodgers' Max Muncy provides update on his injured elbow
"I feel healthy ... I've been swinging a lot recently and the elbow feels like it's finally moving the way it's supposed to move. That's something we couldn't get done all last year. It was very frustrating. We had to make some swing changes just to get my body to move the way it needed to move. It feels healthy right now. It feels strong, and right back where it needs to be. My swing has gotten back to being more simplified which is good for me."- Max Muncy via MLB Network
Muncy underwent two swing changes in 2022. The first was to adapt to his limited elbow mobility, and the second was to readjust so he could be in a more downhill position when attacking pitches in the batter's box.
The midseason alteration clearly granted him a resurgence, and now that his elbow mobility is back to normal, it seems he can head into the new year without any limitations or worries about making mechanical tweaks.
The Dodgers showed their faith in Muncy by guaranteeing his 2023 team option and extending him into 2024 with another team option. The late-season awakening clearly has the front office believing he can go back to hitting like he did in 2018, 2019 and 2021, during which he averaged 35 home runs, 90 RBI and a .900 OPS.
If that happens in 2023, then maybe the drastic changes the Dodgers have made over the last few offseasons won't hurt as much as some fans are expecting them to.