Max Muncy is the latest in a string of Dodgers’ players to come out of nowhere to be incredibly productive. Last year it was Chris Taylor who went from being traded by the Mariners to the Dodgers for Zach Lee (who is no longer with the Mariners organization and still yet to play an MLB game). As you can see below, Taylor came seemingly from nowhere to breakout with the Dodgers last year.
Chris Taylor MLB Stats
In 120 games before last season, Chris Taylor hit just 1 major league home run. In 2017, Taylor hit 21 homers for the Dodgers and helped them get all the way to the World Series. Max Muncy has undergone a similar change for the Dodgers.
Max Muncy Stats (2015-2018)
Muncy has already hit 20 home runs this year and it’s not even the all-star break yet. He has also done this in only 63 games! Muncy is hitting home runs at an incredible rate and walking at a very high rate as well. Muncy did hit .309 in AAA last season so it’s not like he’s completely out of nowhere, but the home run rate is what is so incredible this year. Let’s look at a chart of the top 10 leaders in home runs this year and Max Muncy (currently 1 home run behind 10th place).
2018 Home Run Percentage (HR) and Walk Percentage (BB)
Max Muncy sticks out in the top right hand corner right away. His walk rate is impressive, but what especially sticks out is his home run rate. This chart isn’t showing the average baseball player, this is among the best home run hitters in the game.
What could lead to such a change? Muncy and the aforementioned Chris Taylor both increased their launch angles, which has led to an increase in home runs. Using Launch Angle data from BaseballSavant, I found that Muncy’s average launch angle has increased from 10.44° in 2016 to 16.25° this season. (Note: there is no data from 2017 since Muncy only played in AAA). Muncy has also added a leg kick in before his swing. Beyond that I’m not sure if there’s anything else. Muncy’s homers aren’t monstrous shots like Aaron Judge or any of the top home run guys. He hasn’t really gained more strength, but he is hitting the ball at a higher angle on average. Maybe the Dodgers found something else in these guys, maybe they’re just getting lucky.
LA Dodgers WAR (Wins Above Replacement) vs. 2018 Salary (in millions)
The Dodgers have now had a streak of having these low-paid comeback guys save the team from the huge money they dish out to other guys. The chart above shows every Dodger that has played this year. Each dot represents the player’s WAR (y-axis) and 2018 salary in millions of dollars (x-axis). WAR is a common statistic which summarizes a player’s overall contribution to a team. We can see the lower paid players are providing just as much to the Dodgers as the higher ones. Just a reminder, the Dodgers are paying 5 guys who aren’t even in the organization anymore, $2 million or more this season. Those guys aren’t even included in the chart above, but obviously have contributed 0 WAR this season. The Dodgers also pay a lot to pitchers and have racked up DL time among them. We also see Max Muncy with the highest WAR and making near the least amount on this list. How much longer can the Dodgers keep having breakout guys like Muncy and Chris Taylor bailout the decisions they make in overpaying for guys that don’t work out or how good could the Dodgers be if they used that money more effectively? The last thing to pay attention to is how long can Max Muncy keep punishing baseballs at this kind of a rate?