Back in late July, Max Muncy’s season was hanging in the balance. The guy who posted an .890 OPS and 118 home runs in his first 480 games with the Dodgers found himself with a .609 OPS and just nine homers through the first two-thirds of the season.
The hardest part, as Bill Plunkett reports in the Orange County Register, is that he knew exactly what was wrong. He just didn’t know how to fix it.
“My shoulders were too uphill and my elbow didn’t want to get to the correct slot just because of the injury. It wanted to work in a certain direction that was not good for my swing,” he said. “It was just working too much underneath the baseball. That was causing my shoulders to be too uphill at the point of attack. We knew that was the problem and for a while in the cage we were doing drills to try and fix that. In the cage, it was going fine. Then as soon as I got into a game, it would revert back.
“Every time I got into the batter’s box, my body went back to what felt easy and comfortable. And that wasn’t what was correct.”
As Muncy explains, when you’re in the batter’s box in a real game, “if you’re having to think about anything, then you’re already defeated.” What Muncy needed was a solution that didn’t require him to think about it during the game.
The Dodgers happened to be in Colorado at the time, which got Muncy and the hitting staff thinking about former Rockies star Nolan Arenado, who takes a little step backwards with his back foot at the start of his hitting motion. Muncy and his advisers decided to give it a try in the batting cage.
“I took like three or five swings and the hitting coaches were like, ‘Wait a minute – this might actually work,’” Muncy recalled. “It started out as almost a joke but then, ‘Your body is in the perfect position every time and you’re not even thinking about it.’”
Then came the big test: actually trying it in a game. As Plunkett writes:
He had a hit that night – “a low, line-drive single, something I really hadn’t done all year.” More video analysis confirmed that “this is where my body needs to be.” Muncy decided to stick with it.
Since the change, Muncy has a .915 OPS and 11 homers in 39 games — in other words, he’s Max Muncy again.
Muncy still doesn’t like the change. It’s uncomfortable. He even missed a few games after a cortisone injection in his knee to ease some pain caused by the new step back. But he does it because it works.
“We’re still at that point where I would like to get rid of it because I don’t like doing it. But why would I get rid of it when it’s working right now? It’s putting me in the right position and I’m willing to bet on myself that I can make things happen with the bat as long as I’m in the right position. …
“It’s not a long-term plan. But at the same time, if it keeps working, why wouldn’t it be a long-term plan?”
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