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Dodgers Dugout: Is Max Muncy really the best hitter in the National League?

Dodgers Dugout: Is Max Muncy really the best hitter in the National League?
Max Muncy, right, smiles as he heads back to the dugout with Matt Kemp after homering in a game last month. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m wishing it wasn’t quite so hot. I believe today’s high will be 182 degrees.

Maxwell, good to the last bop

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Remember how good Cody Bellinger was last season, giving the Dodgers a lift just when they needed it and helping them win the division title? Well, Max Muncy has been even better than Bellinger. Where did this guy come from? First, read this great story by our beat reporter, Andy McCullough, then come back here and we will go into more detail.

Maxwell Steven Muncy was born Aug. 25, 1990, in Midland, Texas. He went to Keller High in Keller, Texas, and was drafted by Cleveland in the 41st round of the 2009 draft. He chose not to sign and went to Baylor instead, where he produced a .315/.408/.501 with 27 homers in three years. He was then drafted in the fifth round by Oakland in 2012 and signed with the A’s.

He played in the California League in 2013, which is another reason to go to a Cal League game in the area: You get to see future stars before your friends do.

Oakland promoted him to the majors in 2015, and over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he hit .195/.290/.321. He was released before the 2017 season, and the Dodgers picked him up. He spent 2017 with Oklahoma City, where he hit .309 with 12 homers. After seemingly everyone on the major league roster was injured in April this year, he was called up from the minors. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I mentioned in the last newsletter, Muncy is not eligible to win the Rookie of the Year Award because he played too much with Oakland. However, he is eligible for the All-Star team and should be named as a reserve.

As of Thursday, Muncy, who is third in the NL with 20 homers, needed 267 plate appearances to be eligible for the leaderboard for stats such as batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Muncy currently has 236 plate appearances. If we lowered the requirement for leaders to 230, this would be where he ranks.

Batting average: .280 (30th)

OB%: .419 (2nd)

SLG%: .640 (1st)

OPS+: 186 (1st)

WAA: 2.1 (4th)

WAR: 2.8 (11th)

A stat I find interesting about Muncy is that he has 20 home runs, but only 38 RBIs. The season record for fewest RBIs by someone with at least 20 homers is 40 by Chris Hoiles in 1992. In fact, in the history of baseball, only 22 players have hit 20 home runs and had 50 or fewer RBIs. The first to do it were Ed Bailey (20-48) and Woodie Held (20-50) in 1957. It’s unlikely that Muncy finishes with 50 or fewer, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Some readers have emailed to ask how Muncy has turned things around. Well, McCullough’s story answers that:

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“The alterations to his approach were minor, but the incremental changes stacked up. Muncy stood less upright at the plate. He multiplied the natural speed of his hands with the power of his legs. He became more aggressive.”

According to Muncy, “The changes in my swing are putting me in a better position to use the power that I have. I’ve always had the power there. My swing wasn’t built for hitting home runs before. Whereas now I just feel like I get myself into a better position to use it.”

Super Joc

At one point this season, Joc Pederson was hitting .125/.222/.188. The idiot who writes Dodgers Dugout said it was time to give up on him because he really hadn’t hit in a couple of seasons.

Since then, Pederson has hit .272/.353/.581. But has he called the Dodgers Dugout writer to thank him for the motivation? No. I tell you, some people have no consideration for others.

More KTLA games

For those of you who live in the L.A. area and are unable to see Dodgers games on TV, the Dodgers announced that four games in August and one in September will be televised on KTLA Ch. 5. Those games are:

Saturday, Aug. 4 vs. Houston, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 15 vs. San Francisco, 7 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 20 vs. St. Louis, 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 31 vs. Arizona, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 4 vs. New York Mets, 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, there is no agreement between DirecTV and Spectrum SportsNet coming in the near future.

Ask Joe Davis

Like he did last season, Dodgers announcer Joe Davis has graciously agreed to answer questions from Dodgers Dugout readers. If you have a question for Joe, please email it to me. He will answer selected questions in a future newsletter.

All-Star Dodgers

The All-Star game rosters will be announced Sunday. Who will make it for the Dodgers? It looks like Matt Kemp will be voted in, as he was second among NL outfielders the last time current results were announced. But who should be named as a reserve? I think two deserve to go without a doubt, and you can make a case for other Dodgers.

Ought to go:

Max Muncy: The only reason not to include him is because he got a late start to the season. But he’s only 30 plate appearances shy of qualifying for rate stats, and that’s not nearly enough to keep him out of the game.

Ross Stripling: He has a 2.27 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 83 innings, plus he stepped in as staff ace when Clayton Kershaw went down. And if Walker Buehler hadn’t been injured, he too was pitching his way onto the team.

Make a case for:

Kenley Jansen: His numbers seem bad only in comparison to his stellar numbers in previous years. But he has 23 saves (second in the NL), a 2.21 ERA (fourth) and a 0.910 WHIP (second).

Amazing

I want to give a shout-out to an amazing website, baseball-reference.com, which is the best site in the world for baseball stats, both current and historic. That’s where I get almost all the stats I use in the newsletters. If you haven’t checked it out before, you should.

Ask Ross Porter

Hi, fans! It's good to be back with you to answer your questions during this baseball season. Please send your questions to Houston, and he will pass them on to me. List the city in which you live.

Frank Harrer of Chicago asks: Hi, Ross. Kenley Jansen recently recorded two saves in one day for the Dodgers. (May 19 DH in Washington). How frequently does it happen?

Ross: The only way is when a postponement is made up as a doubleheader. Frank, our friends at Stats LLC tell me that since the save became an official statistic in 1969, it has occurred 151 times. Only three other Dodgers achieved the feat: Mike Marshall in 1974, Charlie Hough in 1976, and Jeff Shaw in 2000.

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Jon Wada of San Jose and Bob Kyle of Tulsa, Okla., ask: The Dodgers seem to excel at sending players down to Oklahoma City and then calling them back shortly thereafter. How many times can they do this for a player?

Ross: A player has three option years. He can go to the minors and return to the majors as many times as the team wants. It only counts as one option in a year. After the player is added to the major league roster, the organization has three option years, and if you move him at least once each season, then he’s out of options. This player goes through outright waivers and any team can claim him for $20,000.

Tim Younkman of Taos, N.M., asks: Ross, I always loved your timely stats! One I have been unable to find. Which position player was on the winning team the most games?

Ross: That would be Pete Rose. He was on the field for 1,972 victories in his 24 seasons, and lost 1,590 times. The 3,562 games played are a major league record.

H. Williams asks: Do you keep in touch with Vin Scully and Rick Monday?

Ross: Vin and I communicate regularly on the phone or by email. My last conversation with Monday was 14 years ago when I left. He was glad to see me go because he wanted to be the No. 2 announcer. Didn’t happen.

I called Charley Steiner, who is a nice guy, to congratulate him the day they announced he was replacing me, and have enjoyed several chats with him since.

Up next

Friday, 7 p.m.: Dodgers (Kenta Maeda, 5-5, 3.36 ERA) at Angels (TBD).

Saturday, 4:15 p.m.: Dodgers (Ross Stripling, 6-2, 2.27 ERA) at Angels (Felix Pena, 1-0, 3.71 ERA). TV: Fox

Sunday, 5 p.m.: Dodgers (Alex Wood, 5-5, 3.84 ERA) at Angels (Andrew Heaney, 4-6, 3.94 ERA). TV: ESPN

And finally

The Dodgers acquire Cincinnati reliever Dylan Floro to bolster the bullpen. Read all about it here.

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.

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