In order to swing his season (and career) forward, Max Muncy had to take a step back.

A step back in moving off the position he’d solidified as a top-10 finisher in MVP voting last season. A step back in allowing a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and his mind to heal after a catastrophic collision on the final day of the regular season. And a step back that now accompanies each and every swing, a mechanical adjustment that has helped Muncy transform back into one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball since the calendar flipped to August.

Years after finding himself out of a big-league job and recrafting his swing in an old Texas high school batting cage under the guidance of his father, Lee, Muncy once again had to reinvent himself.

For much of 2022, physical and mechanical maladies robbed Muncy of what had made him great. He’d retained his discerning eye at the plate but struggled to make hard contact. Even as his elbow healed and the hard contact returned, the ball too often shot straight into the air for easy outs. Resetting his healing elbow meant relying on muscle memories established during countless swings as one of the game’s preeminent sluggers. But those feelings deceived him; upon further review, his return to a comfortable swing after the injury had moved his positioning to a completely different spot than he’d thought. The angles were off, and he wasn’t able to see pitches the way he always had. The swing he thought was back to normal was anything but.

“I was doing what I thought was right, but it was only what felt comfortable,” Muncy told The Athletic recently.

The ghost of his old swing made him one of the worst hitters in baseball. By the time the Dodgers placed him on the injured list at the end of May to reinvigorate his elbow and his mind, Muncy was hitting just .150, the lowest average in baseball among qualified hitters to that point. A return to active status only saw that figure increase by 14 points by the All-Star break, with only a slight boost in overall production.

It left the 31-year-old searching for answers that ranged to the extreme. The Dodgers discussed moving his hands around or changing how Muncy stood in the box. On a whim, he tried a different approach in the cage before a game last month at Coors Field. As the pitch would arrive, he’d take a half step back with his left leg, getting his back hip higher, and better positioning his shoulders. Doing so redistributed his body back down and forward rather than up and under the ball.

It felt good, so Muncy took those mechanics into that night’s game. He recorded a hit in his first at-bat, a ripped single off José Ureña, and he locked it in. Since then, he’s been a top-five hitter in the sport.