After a breakout 2018 season in which he led the Los Angeles Dodgers with a career-high 35 home runs, Max Muncy faced questions over how, or if, he’d be able to replicate that success in a second full year in the Majors.
After all, countless talented players — including teammate Cody Bellinger — have fallen victim to a sophomore slump. Muncy explained his disciplined approach would be key to avoiding such a pitfall, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts echoed the sentiment.
Sure enough, the 28-year-old is producing at a near-identical clip to last season. Muncy’s latest heroics came Wednesday night with a walk-off home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th inning.
He bailed out Kenley Jansen and clinched a series victory for the Dodgers. The home run was Muncy’s only hit in the game, but he recovered from striking out in his first two at-bats with a pair of walks and eventual game-winner.
“For me, the biggest sign I’m feeling good is if I’m getting walks,” Muncy said after the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory. “If I’m getting walks, it means I’m not chasing, I’m not being too aggressive.
“I’m kind of letting them come to me a little bit. When I’m doing that, that’s kind of the biggest key for me.”
Muncy has a nine-game hitting streak and hit a home run in a career-best five consecutive games. He’s also drawn at least one walk in each of the past three contests. Muncy’s 77 walks on the season are two shy of tying last year’s mark.
His walk rate is slightly down from 16.4% in 2018 to 14.9%, but there’s been improvement in strikeout rate as that has decreased 27.2% to 23.7% over that same span.
“It’s amazing. I keep talking about the moment, his at-bats. I think he had three walks [Tuesday] night and homered,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts marveled.
“It’s just understanding the value of swinging at strikes. If they don’t throw strikes, then he takes his base. He doesn’t get overanxious. It’s really the consistency, the maturity he has as a hitter. I can’t count how many big hits he’s gotten for us.”
Muncy’s home run gave the Dodgers 11 walk-off wins this season, which is their most since producing 12 in 2012. Muncy has two game-winning hits in 2019, with both coming in August.
“I think it’s just something that’s contagious with the attitude in the clubhouse,” he said. “Everyone wants to be up there in that situation, everyone wants to be the guy. When you have a whole group of guys that want to do that, you get the results that we’ve had.”