Max Muncy walking a lot in slow start of 2022

Some strange and unbalanced batting lines appear at the beginning of each season. This season is no exception, but even in that context, Max Muncy is amazing.

Just take a look at what the Dodgers infielder was slashing in his first 33 games of 2022: .163/.341/.298. Obviously, that’s not good, but it’s also not as bad as you might expect.

Weighted runs created plus (wRC+), an offensive metric similar to OPS+ that adjusts for offensive environment and park effects, has Muncy at 97, just three points below the MLB average. Of course, that’s still far below what Muncy has produced in his three full seasons since he joined the Dodgers: 162 (2018), 133 (’20) and 140 (’21).

But the main point here is not the quality of Muncy’s slash. It is the rarity.

Muncy’s base hits through 33 games: 17
Muncy goes through 33 games: 27

Add a hit per pitch, and Muncy had gotten on base safely via a free pass twice as often as he had via a batted ball, before getting three soft singles in his last two games, including one through a touch on Monday. evening. Even in an era of low batting averages and high walk and hit rates, that stands out.

Highest hit-to-walk ratio in modern AL/NL history
In a qualifying season (since 1900)

As usual, Peak Bonds belongs to a completely separate category. (His two seasons mentioned above rank first and second all-time in both total walks and intentional walks.) Put that aside, and Joey Gallo’s 1.12 ratio last year (111 walks, 99 hits) was the highest in a qualifying season not shortened since Wynn’s 1976.

Of course, it’s important to note the “ranking season” warning. White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal had 1.3 times as many walks (87) as hits (67) a year ago, but that was in just 375 plate appearances, thanks in part to the nearly two months he spent on the disabled list.

The above leaderboard is also not an apples to apples comparison. The Dodgers have played about a fifth of their schedule, and Muncy’s ratio almost certainly won’t remain this outlier until September. But even focusing on the beginning of a season, this is rare territory.

27+ walks AND 17 or fewer hits
Through a player’s first 33 games in a season (since 1901)
2022 – Max Muncy (LAD): 27 BBs, 17 H
2021 – Yasmani Grandal (CHW): 38 BBs, 12 H
2000 – John Jaha (OAK): 33 BBs, 17 H
1987 – John Cangelosi (PIT): 28 BB, 10 H
1973 – Denis Menke (CIN): 27 BB, 17 H
1961 – Eddie Yost (LAA): 30 BBs, 16 H
1937 – Woody English (BRO): 28 BBs, 16 H
1935 – Sammy Holbrook (WSH): 27 BBs, 16 H

Jaha’s 33rd game was his last of the 2000 season. Of the other six, only Menke collected more walks than hits for the rest of that season, showing that these extreme results generally recede toward the mean as the sample size is expanded.

Still, considering Muncy’s importance to a stacked Dodgers lineup, it’s worth looking at how he got to this point and what it means moving forward. (All stats below are through Sunday’s games.)

rides are nothing new

This part of the equation is quite normal. Muncy was a patient hitter before he came to the Dodgers, and he certainly has been since his breakout 2018 campaign in Los Angeles.

In the last four seasons, only seven qualified hitters have surpassed Muncy’s 15.2% walk rate, and that served him well. He ranked in the top 20 in MLB in OBP (.371) and wRC+ (138) during that period.

Muncy remains one of the most patient hitters in the game, ranking in the 97th percentile in chase rate, his fifth straight season at or above the 94th percentile. And he’s especially stingy in terms of looking for deals in what Statcast considers the “chase” and “waste” areas, beyond the width of a baseball outside the edge of the zone. Of more than 230 batters who have seen at least 100 such pitches, only teammate Will Smith has swung at a lower rate than Muncy (6.2%).

What is perhaps worrying is that Muncy (never particularly aggressive in the zone either) has become increasingly passive there as well. His 55.4% swing rating against pitches in the “heart” of the zone (at least the width of a baseball inside the rim) is also the second-lowest in the MLB. That could lead to deeper counts and eventually more walks, but it also misses the kind of pitches that are more likely to become base hits. Only Grandal has taken more strikes called on those heart-of-the-zone offerings while he was ahead in the count than Muncy.

Where have all the hits gone?

It would be more comforting for the Dodgers if this was simply a case of bad luck. But while Muncy’s expected batting average based on contact quality is 52 points higher than his actual average, he hardly stands out from the rest.

Guilty? Muncy just isn’t driving the ball like he’s used to. Remember, the left-handed slugger is coming back from a torn UCL in his left elbow that he suffered in the final game of the 2021 regular season. It’s hard to say if that has contributed to Muncy being a bit off, but these comparisons certainly stand out. . :

Those stats refer to how often Muncy hits the ball at 95 mph or harder and how often he makes contact in the optimal launch angle range to produce good results. In particular, Muncy gets under many balls, elevating them above the range of the sweet spot (33 degrees launch angle or more). He is 2-for-26 (.077) in that variety of contact, which is about the league’s average hit rate.

If Muncy can secure the swing he displayed for much of 2021, better results should follow. In the meantime, his trademark patience will at least keep him on base, and keep him sharing space with Bonds at the top of some weird leaderboard.

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