Max Muncy talks his defensive work, sticking to routine, staying focused, more

(Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

PHOENIX — In the spring of 2017, the Oakland A’s released Max Muncy. The Dodgers signed him to a minor league contract the next month. Muncy worked that opportunity into a full-time infielder job with the Dodgers. 

Six seasons and two All-Star selections later, Muncy has become one of the most valuable hitters on the Dodgers and in the league during that span, leading the team not only in long balls (175), but runs (471), RBI (472) and BB% (15.3). The 33-year old flipped the script on his career and has posted a 19.6 WAR and .842 OPS for a 128 wRC+ as a Dodger so far.

Last year proved to be a unique challenge, as the Dodgers moved Muncy over to third base full-time. He struggled defensively at the hot corner, but he did slug a career-high 36 homers to make up for it. Back when Muncy first signed with the Dodgers, he was considered one of the worst defensive first basemen in the NL. He worked diligently at his defense at first, and it paid off with a Gold Glove finalist nod in 2021, where he ended up behind only future teammate Freddie Freeman and winner Paul Goldschmidt. The Dodgers are hoping that Muncy’s work ethic will result in a similar kind of improvement at the hot corner, as he’s worked hard to improve his defense in the offseason. He’s using a smaller glove to avoid defensive blunders, and he has strengthened his throwing as well.

I asked Dave Roberts his assessment of Muncy so far this Spring, and he gave a ringing endorsement, “I think he’s had a really good spring. His body, he’s in really good shape. I think right now he’s got a lot more confidence than he had last year. So, hitting or defense is just like hitting where at times you get into slumps. Sometimes you have some mental lack of confidence, but right now this is the kind of Max Muncy that I have come to know from the years past.

Offensively, there’s no doubt he’s looked sharp. In nine Cactus League games, Muncy slashed .357/.545/.786/1.331. He got in 14 at-bats and drove in four runs with five hits, including two home runs, four runs batted in, four strikeouts, and four of his signature walks.

Things are harder to measure with objective data defensively, but by the eye test Muncy certainly looked more comfortable at third during Spring Training and in exhibition games at least.

Obviously though, the timing here isn’t ideal given his defensive struggles in the final game of the Seoul Series.

Regardless, I spoke with Muncy before a game at Camelback Ranch to find out more from the Dodgers’ slugger.


Stacie: How is your hand and shoulder feeling after getting hit? 

Note: Muncy overcame a scare just prior to this after getting hit by a pitch in the left hand during a Cactus League game between the Dodgers and Rangers. X-rays were negative, and Muncy returned to the lineup after two missed games.

Max: “They’re fine. It’s just part of it. It’s baseball. It’s part of it. You have to go get your treatment. Try to get everything moving how you want to. You just get back in the box.”

Stacie: How’s your defensive work coming along this Spring? I know that was a major aspect that you were to focus on going into the new season.

Max: “It’s been great. It’s been a lot of great work so far. I feel like I’m approaching the ball a lot better than I have been. Everything feels smooth. It’s working how I want it to work. I’m getting some good reps in the games. It feels better than it has in years past.”

Stacie: How do you balance your workout in Spring Training between offense and defense?

Max: “It’s hard to do that because there’s only so much time in the day. It’s been a lot of work, which is always tough in Spring. It gets your body back into game shape. No matter how much you train in the offseason, there’s no way to emulate what Spring Training is. It’s a lot of … I mean you warm up, then you sit down for meetings. You go out and warm up again, and you cool down. Then you do a team fundamental and you warm up again. There’s just no way to simulate that in the offseasons. You have to be careful with how much you’re doing. You have to make sure you focus on everything you do.”

Stacie: How do you pace yourself over this marathon of a season, starting from Spring Training all the way through hopefully October and deep into the postseason?

Max: “Routine. You have to keep a routine. That way, you know, if there’s a day you’re not feeling good, you have to make sure you can push yourself through your routine. If there’s a day you’re feeling really good, then you have to stop after you do your routine. You can’t do any more, you can’t do any less. You have to make sure you stick to your routine. Whether that’s your stuff in the weight room, whether it’s your early work, what you’re doing in the cage, how you’re preparing for the game. You have to have the same routine everyday. 

Occasionally there’s times when you have to get in there and do a little extra work, but routine is important. There’s a lot of days when you don’t want to do the work because you’re just tired, you’re on a long road trip, you have an early game, there’s a couple more cities that are more humid than others. You still have to find a way to go out there and do your routine. Otherwise you’re not going to be prepared for the game. So, for me, routine is everything.”

Stacie: How do you stay focused on your game amongst the hoopla of the offseason acquisitions and the potential for this year’s team?

Max: “You just have to focus on yourself. You have to go out there and you need to prepare for every pitch for every game. You can’t worry about the days before, you can’t worry about the days after. You just have to keep focusing on the day you have ahead of you. As long as you can do that, that’s one of the key things you can control in the game. How prepared you are, how ready you are for your spot, your position, your play. If you focus on that, your outcome is generally going to be better than worse.”

Stacie: Who was your favorite player growing up?

Max: “It was Jim Thome. My dad grew up in Cleveland. So, when I was little, you only had a couple games on TV. If any time the Indians were on — they were the Indians at the time — were on TV, we were always watching next to my dad. So I grew up watching a lot of Jim Thome when he was over there. Being a left-handed hitter, it was someone I liked to emulate with my swing.”


Muncy will hit behind the “Big 3” in the Dodgers’ lineup this year, and while he’s always been an important component of the Dodgers’ offense, he’s hopefully going to get more chances than ever in 2024. So a healthy and productive Muncy figures to be integral to the Dodgers’ pursuit of a World Series victory.

About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the co-editor of Lasorda's Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.