Two Unlikely Starters Turned 1st Half Offensive MVPs
When the Dodgers reported to Camelback Ranch in early February, there were many speculations as to who was going to be leading the charge for the offense in 2018. Numerous people made the assumption that one of our former Rookies of the Year Corey Seager or Cody Bellinger would be the ones to look to, or even Justin Turner who has been killing it ever since he has put on the Dodger Blue. But as a matter of fact, the two most important pieces of the Dodgers offense are two players that weren’t even sure if they were going to be on the team when the season started. Of course I am talking about Matt Kemp and Max Muncy!
Looking at Kemp and Muncy, you don’t see many similarities between them. They both have very different body types, personalities and even playing styles. However, they have one thing in common, they are both surprisingly having great success with the Dodgers! The last time you saw these players on a major league field you would’ve never guessed that they would be in the Top 3 of just about every stat category for the Dodgers offense as they hit the All-Star Break.
Kemp has been nothing short of spectacular since his return to Los Angeles which is surprising because when Kemp was traded in 2014 it appeared like his best days were behind him and that Beast Mode would cease to exist, his performances and attitude in San Diego and Atlanta proved it. His stats began to take a slight dip, he put on a lot of excess weight and developed a bad attitude that was not appreciated by his teammates or coaches. In 2015, Kemp only hit .265 with a .312 OBP and 23 HRs. 2016 was actually a good year for Kemp but the Padres felt he wasn’t giving his best efforts so they dealt him to Atlanta where he finished the year hitting .268 but with 35 HRs and 108 RBIs. But 2017 was one of the worst years in his career, he led the NL in double plays grounded into and hit only 19 HRs and 64 RBIs, to put that into perspective he has already hit 15 HRs and 60 RBIs this season and it’s only mid-July.
In December, when the Dodgers made the move to reacquire Kemp it appeared to be a move to free up some cap space and Kemp would be either traded or released before reporting to Camelback Ranch. The Dodgers were unable to move his contract and Kemp saw this as his opportunity to revitalize his career and has made the most of it. He immediately began to put in work in the gym and on the field, losing all those extra pounds and trying to get back into the groove of things, which obviously has worked for him! He’s currently hitting .310 and has become the most consistent Dodger at the plate through the first half of the season and even earned himself a start in the 2018 All-Star Game!
Now, onto the enigma that is Max Muncy. Many Dodgers fans believed this was his rookie season with the way he just exploded onto the scene, but in reality he made his Major League debut with the Oakland A’s back in 2015. It is understandable how many Dodgers fans hadn’t heard of Muncy prior to the season due to his struggles with the A’s organization. In 2015, he played only 45 games and hit .206 with 3 HRs and 9 RBIs and in 2016 he played only 51 games hitting .186 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs and was released by the A’s before the end of Spring Training in 2017. The Dodgers signed Muncy to a minor league contract very soon after that. Max arrived in Oklahoma City and played in 109 games hitting .309 with 12 HRs and 44 RBIs during the 2017 season.
Through the first couple weeks of the season, fans were wondering where the production at third base was going to come from with JT still being out a couple more months with a wrist injury, the plateau of Logan Forsythe and Kyle Farmer not working out. Manager Dave Roberts decided to give Muncy a shot by calling him up on April 17th and he made the most of it, hitting a HR in his first start and he hasn’t looked back! He’s currently batting .271 with 22 HRs and 42 RBIs. By his 29th game with the Dodgers, he had already surpassed his totals for HRs and RBIs in Oakland! Muncy has performed so well throughout the first half of the season that he was even up for the Final Vote to make it to the NL All-Star team, but despite our effort here at our Voting HQ at Dodger Stadium voting for the man for 24 straight hours, he unfortunately didn’t make the cut. On the bright side, even though he didn’t win the final spot on the All-Star team, Muncy was still able to represent the Dodgers in D.C.! Muncy was selected to participate in the HR Derby due to his impressive display of power and eliminated Javier Baez in the first round. Unfortunately he had to go up against the hometown hero Bryce Harper in the semi-final and came up short but we here at Pantone 294 are still proud of our boy MadMax!
The Dodgers have had to overcome a lot through the first half of this season, starting the season without JT, Clayton Kershaw having his back issues and losing Corey Seager for the rest of the season with a torn UCL, but thanks to these two players who were barely on anyone’s radar at the beginning of the season the Dodgers are right at the top of the NL West and are set up for for a memorable second half of the season. If it weren’t for the performances of Matt Kemp and Max Muncy, the Dodgers would be waist deep in a forgettable season. Now let’s hope these two can keep it going through the rest of the season and be the missing pieces that the 2017 team needed.
- Blake Kuehnle