LOS ANGELES -- Max Muncy came off the scrap heap to slug 35 homers in 2018 and the skeptics said, "Nice, but do it again."
So, he did. Muncy also upped his RBIs by nearly 20 in 2019, made his first All-Star appearance and was one of the bats in the Dodgers' lineup that didn’t disappear in the National League Division Series defeat to the Nationals.
He improved his defense enough to be interchangeable at first base and second base, but also appeared in 35 games at third base as the primary backup for Justin Turner.
In short, Muncy showed in '19 that his '18 was no fluke.
What went right?
In addition to duplicating the 35 homers, the 29-year-old Muncy set career highs in games played (141), runs scored (101), hits (122), doubles (22), RBIs (98), walks (90) and stolen bases (4). He slugged a two-run homer in the Dodgers’ Game 5 NLDS elimination by the Nationals. And he famously told Madison Bumgarner “to go get it out of the ocean” when the infuriated Giants pitcher screamed at Muncy not to watch his splash homer sail into McCovey Cove at Oracle Park.
“There is definitely a little more satisfaction because coming into this year, all I heard people talking about was, ‘Oh, teams are going to make the adjustment. You’re not going to be able to do what you did last year,’” Muncy told Dodgers Insider. “Why can’t it work on both sides? Why can’t hitters make the adjustment? It kind of aggravated me a little bit to hear all these people saying all these things. I wanted to go out and prove I can still be a very productive player that I was [in 2018].”
What went wrong?
Not much. He was consistently productive against right-handed and left-handed pitching, even though his batting average dipped in the second half, especially when he rushed back from a fractured right wrist.
On June 9, Muncy homered off Bumgarner, which was reason enough for Muncy to be a fan favorite. But the ensuing exchange is already legendary. Bumgarner yelled at Muncy for watching it, prompting Muncy’s epic response -- “If you don’t like me watching the ball, you can go get it out of the ocean.” T-shirts couldn’t be silk-screened fast enough.
Now that he’s done it twice, Muncy no longer must prove he can produce. He’ll be expected to. With his power and plate discipline, Muncy will be an everyday presence in the lineup. He’ll probably play primarily at first base, but he could slide over to second depending on Gavin Lux’s role.