As the Los Angeles Dodgers were marching toward the best record in baseball last season, they received surprise contributions from a slew of players. Chief among them was Chris Taylor, who emerged as an everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter for the club.
The baton was seemingly passed to Max Muncy through the first half of the 2018 season. He joined the organization last year on a Minor League contract and began the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City despite an impressive showing in Spring Training.
Injuries created an opportunity for Muncy, which he took full advantage of and has remained with the club since the middle of April.
However, the 27-year-old has been mired in a slump for the better part of the past six weeks. What’s made it more frustrating for Muncy is that he considers it a mental hurdle as opposed to simply needing to make changes at the plate, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“That’s just kind of how baseball is. You go through the slumps, you go through the struggles. You have to find a way to get out of it. The thing that’s really frustrating for me is, you sit down and look at film, there’s nothing mechanically wrong. There’s nothing timing-wise wrong, so from the physical part of it, there’s nothing wrong with what’s going on. It’s all mental problems. When that happens, it’s even harder to get out of it.”
Muncy batted .271/.409/.604 with nine doubles, 22 home runs and 41 RBI through the first half. He peaked in June, hitting .289 with a 1.176 on-base plus slugging percentage that earned him a spot in the Home Run Derby.
Although there’s a tendency to blame the contest for a player’s struggles, Muncy began his slide prior to swinging away at Nationals Park. In 19 games (15 starts) since the All-Star break, Muncy is just 12-for-61 (.183 batting average).
One clear factor for the skid has been Muncy’s strikeout rate (39.7 percent in the second half) increasing while his walk rate (7.4 percent) has steadily declined since June. He did deliver a pinch-hit home run in Thursday’s series opener against the Colorado Rockies.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently pointed to Muncy coming out of the zone as reason to blame, but indicated he would continue to provide him with plenty of opportunities to break out of the slump.