Max Muncy entered 2021 looking to rebound after a poor year during the 2020 season that was shortened due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Although Muncy had a regular season to forget in 2020, he started to come through in the playoffs as the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series since 1988. Because of that, Muncy wasn’t concerned his struggles would linger from the previous campaign. But the 31-year-old still got off to a frustrating start.
While Muncy had a .432 on-base percentage and 131 wRC+ in April, his slugging percentage was .383 and his batting average was .222 as he adjusted to seeing more high-spin fastballs that give the appearance of rising movement to hitters.
“It’s really hard to be on top of a fastball right now with the amount of movement everyone out there has,” Muncy said last April. “Everyone is throwing riseballs now, so you’ve just got to make adjustments. Mine are taking a little bit longer, but we’re getting there and making good progress.”
In May, Muncy had his best month of the season as he hit .330/.440/.714 with 10 home runs and a 202 wRC+ that pushed him into the MVP conversation. He continued to produce in June despite a .205 average thanks to his high on-base and slugging percentages.
Muncy had another great month in July that further pushed him into MVP conversations as he hit .315/.402/.562 with seven home runs and a 160 wRC+.
Muncy was also named the starting designated hitter for the National League All-Star team after being selected to the Midsummer Classic as a reserve despite being the best first baseman up to that point.
“It is what it is. Fans didn’t feel I deserved a spot, so that’s really all it was,” Muncy said. “I know Dodger fans were out there doing their best. Unfortunately, it’s a lot of the country against us, but thank you to all the Dodger fans that did vote. Not just for me but all of us. We really appreciated it.”
Going into August, Muncy was looking to build on his MVP-caliber season as he heard “MVP” chants when he stepped to the plate at Dodger Stadium.
However, Muncy began to struggle. In the second half of the season, he hit .228/.315/.494 with a 116 wRC+. Overall, it was still solid production but it was enough to take him out of the MVP discussions as Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trea Turner continued to perform.
As the regular season was coming to an end on the final day, Muncy sustained a left elbow injury, which included a dislocation and “other damage” that was later revealed to be a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The injury kept him out for the Dodgers’ playoff run.
Muncy finished the season by batting .249/.368/.527 with 36 home runs, 94 RBIs, a 140 wRC+ and 4.9 WAR.
After the season, Muncy was named as a finalist for the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards but he did not win either of them. He also finished 10th in MVP voting, which is likely to earn him a pay raise.
Muncy’s 2021 highlight
On July 17 while facing the Colorado Rockies, Muncy had his best game of the season. He finished the day 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI.
Muncy is expected to be ready for Opening Day despite the significant left elbow injury.
He will be the Dodgers’ starting first baseman and should continue to produce at an elite level. However, he could also end up playing second base if the team is able to sign Freddie Freeman.
Muncy is an important part of the Dodgers’ lineup and with Corey Seager now a Texas Ranger, they will need Muncy to continue producing.
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