LOS ANGELES – In his third appearance on the plate on Tuesday, Max Muncy it hits a pop-up window with unusual strength and height to the outside field of Dodger Stadium. He stopped at Mike Trout’s glove a few seconds later, to no avail, one of the 24 outs the Dodgers made that night against the Angels.
It was the kind of parable that goes unnoticed by occasional fans, not fighting drummers. Muncy, the .156 batting average, is a struggling hitter. He recited the ball’s exit speed (99.3 mph) and launch angle (52 degrees) a day later as signs of progress.
“That tells me the barrel is getting there,” Muncy said Wednesday, “something I didn’t do before.”
For a day, it looked like Muncy was back. He recently took a 13-game sabbatical to Phoenix and Oklahoma City to rest his “barking” elbow. Upon her return on June 9 in Chicago, Muncy was 2 out of 5 with a homer, a double and five RBIs. It was the Max Muncy the Dodgers had been waiting for all season.
It wasn’t, however, the Max Muncy the Dodgers have seen in five games since then: 2 of 16 with three bases per ball and two strikeouts. That’s why even noisy outs, like his flyout on Tuesday’s sixth inning, are taken into account.
The batting average only tells part of Muncy’s 2022 season story. After hitting .520 between 2018-21, Muncy is now hitting .280, with just four homers in 46 games. Even his base percentage, usually a strength, is a ton above the league average at .323. The start barely resembles that of a hitter who has garnered National League MVP votes in three of the last four seasons.
Muncy’s struggles stem from a quirky play in the final game of the 2021 regular season, when the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow was broken. in a collision on the first base. Muncy missed the entire 2021 postseason. He admitted his elbow was not fully recovered when he was placed on the 15-day injury list.
Listening to Muncy and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, the time spent at IL (May 26-June 8) was not a wasted exercise, although the results are questionable. Did Muncy return too soon? Could it be the batter the Dodgers need with a left elbow at less than 100%? If not, should Roberts give Muncy more days off the rest of the year to keep her cool?
“I think he’s fine physically and emotionally,” Roberts said of Muncy. “There will be a few days: one or two days (rest) in that stretch of (19) in a row. It’s made to play every day, so I don’t think you need to find arbitrary days to sit it down, especially if you’re doing a good swing balance.” .
Muncy is swinging well enough, at least in Roberts ’estimate and the team’s main office, to keep his place in the Dodgers’ batting order. When in starting lineup, Muncy hits fourth or fifth. Only five-time All-Star Freddie Freeman hits highest among the team’s left-handed hitters.
Roberts ’insistence on keeping Muncy in the middle of the lineup only underscores her importance to the team.
“For me, Freddie and Max (are) outstanding guys in training from that side of the batter’s box,” Roberts said. “When Max is good it makes everyone’s job easier. But it’s not just Freddie and Max. They’re all the ones who have to work together for our offensive to come out.”
Perhaps the most important conclusion of Muncy’s stage in IL was the realization that sometimes less is more.
Free days were rare events, not entirely because of Muncy’s choice. A 99-day blockade imposed by Major League Baseball delayed the start of spring training and finally the regular season as well. The 162-match schedule has been condensed to include fewer days off and more doubles matches.
After the games he fought on the plate, Muncy said his response was to hit the batting cage more.
“When you’re doing that you’re not really giving yourself time to heal,” he said. “Sometimes that’s the most important thing, you give a couple of days to heal.”
It’s unclear how this lesson will inform Muncy’s workload in the future. The Dodgers have the luxury of two days off in the next five. However, Monday’s day off, like most West Coast-based teams, is a day trip. The Dodgers will enjoy just one more day off (also a day trip) between Monday and the All-Star break.
At least Muncy will have those four days off. And now, critically, you can appreciate the value of a day off.
“It’s my turn to bat since I came back, even if the results aren’t there, I feel like my old man,” he said. “I feel much better. My faults have been better. The process is much better. The mind is much better. With that will come the results. I know who I am as a player. The most important thing was to take a step back and let my body I was fine for a few days. “
Cleveland (RHP Zach Plesac, 2-4, 4.70) at the Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw, 4-1, 2.12 ERA), Friday, 7:10 p.m., Apple TV +, 570 AM
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