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MLB

Max Muncy Has Been The Dodgers’ Foundation

Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers watches his solo home run leave the park
Tom Pennington/Getty

Max Muncy deserved to admire his work. After walking and singling off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, the Dodgers first baseman came up to the plate with two outs in a quiet fifth, right after he had helped thwart a steal of home in the previous half-inning. As he has done in seemingly every plate appearance in this postseason, Muncy did not take the bat off his shoulders until he was good and ready. He looked at four pitches that did not entice him, shaking his head as the lone strike got called despite its position below the strike zone. Then he got what he wanted—a high fastball right down the middle of the plate—but Muncy swung late, fouling it off to bring the count full.

Fortunately for Muncy, he was given a second chance, as Glasnow came back with almost the exact same pitch. This time, Muncy had it timed perfectly, sending that baseball on a long, long trip into seats over 430 feet away. He took his sweet time leaving the batter’s box, then made the trot around the bases to double the Dodgers’ lead to its final form of 4-2.

This home run was the most dramatic moment of Max Muncy’s October, but it wasn’t necessarily a surprise. Though the headlines have been dominated by hitters like Bellinger, Betts, Seager, Margot, and Arozarena, it is Max Muncy—yeah, Max Muncy!—who has proven to be the most difficult out on either roster. His OBP of .461 leads all batters, despite an average of just .268, because Muncy has drawn an almost Bonds-esque 20 walks throughout these playoffs, as he’s reached base in all but one game (the wild card clincher against the Brewers, 16 long games ago).

This impressive streak comes despite a pretty poor regular season, where Muncy batted just .192. But even in those 58 disappointing games, Muncy’s eagle eye has been a fixture of these Dodgers since he broke out in L.A. with a reinvented approach in 2018. That year, he finished 18th in the league in walks despite playing just 137 games. Last year, he finished 12th with 90 BBs in 141 games. And this year, his 39 walks in 58 games was good for ninth overall.

Not that anyone really cares. This video, as I understand it, features nearly every single ball four on Max Muncy in his career up until early August this year. In two-and-a-half months, it’s gotten 24 views.

In the World Series, however, these walks have had enormous impact, as they work to both put Muncy in a threatening position on base and drive up those all-important pitch counts. Here is Muncy’s walk with everything scoreless in the fourth inning of Game 1. It doubled the damage done by Cody Bellinger’s two-run shot just a couple of batters later.

And here’s Muncy’s walk from before his dinger in Game 5. It extended the inning so Bellinger could drive in a run with a two-out single, making the score 2-0.

None of these walks, in themselves, are even one-sixteenth as entertaining or memorable as Corey Seager blasting a big dong over the fence or Mookie Betts taking one away as he leaps on the warning track. But they add up, and they’ve put Muncy in the mix during so many crucial L.A. innings. In Game 5 against the Braves in the NLCS, with the Dodgers down 2-1, Muncy walked by looking at six straight pitches and then scored on the very next at-bat thanks to Will Smith’s three-run shot. In the first inning of Game 6 against the Braves—the only inning in which the Dodgers scored any runs in their 3-1 win—he walked on six pitches after back-to-back dingers and then scored on a Cody Bellinger hit.

Muncy’s incredible vision makes him the kind of hitter that pitchers absolutely must risk throwing strikes to if they hope to get him out, allowing him to, for example, smash a grand slam on a full count to put his team up 11-0 in Game 3 of the LCS, or hit a two-run single on a full count in Game 3 of the World Series, or make that Tyler Glasnow mistake sail over everyone’s heads on Sunday night.

Patience, almost by definition, is an unexciting trait for an athlete to show in any sport. It’s a skill that calls attention to whatever isn’t happening in that moment. But in Muncy’s case, his patience has so often laid the groundwork for the more spectacular moments that have put the Dodgers where they are now, one win away. For that, he’s more than earned the right to bask in the spotlight when it does shine on him.