Daniel Vogelbach is a better learner than he swings.
In each season since 2017, the Mets’ newest slugger has swung at pitches less frequently than during the previous year. He is more aware of the strike zone and how pitchers throw to him so he is more focused on hitting pitches that he can hit.
The approach and its results helped entice the Mets, who acquired Vogelbach from the Pirates in July, and has made him a truly unique batter — one who uses his bat less often than anyone else.
Before the Mets’ 9-6 loss to the Braves at Citi Field on Friday, Vogelbach, who went 0-for-2 with a walk, had swung at 32.2 percent of the pitches he had seen this season. This was the lowest mark among major leaguers with more than 100 plate appearances. Juan Soto, at 35.4 per cent, was second.
“That’s not my goal,” Vogelbach said about the odd batting title. “I just try to have a plan when I go to the plate and stick to my plan, whatever that plan may be. I try not to swing at what I didn’t want to swing at going up there.”
The 29-year-old is also among the league’s best at laying off balls, which helps explain the mindset: Vogelbach does not chase pitches often and tries to make the opposing pitcher enter the strike zone before he lifts the bat from his shoulder.
His home run Thursday off Atlanta righty Kyle Wright, came on the fourth pitch of the at-bat — and on the first time Vogelbach offered at a pitch.
Vogelbach is able to select the pitches that are most appealing and helps him get to base more frequently. Vogelbach walked seven times in the first 10 Mets games.
“When you have that type of power and you have the ability to hit balls where they can’t catch them, you’d think that would lead to wanting to swing more,” manager Buck Showalter said of Vogelbach, who has been exactly what the Mets craved in a lefty-hitting designated hitter. “The discipline required not to do that is remarkable, and that’s why it’s a commodity that people want, including us.
“It’s hard. I couldn’t do it.”
It takes knowledge of opposing arsenals and being able to pick up quickly on pitches’ spins, knowing whether the ball will tumble out of the strike zone. It takes comfort with digging into counts.
“I gotta be OK hitting with two strikes,” said Vogelbach, who had a respectable .593 OPS with two strikes this season. “Some guys, you don’t want to get to two strikes. Some guys can live with it. It just depends on the type of pitcher and the pitches they have.”
Vogelbach has traded uniforms, moving from a Pittsburgh non-contender to a Queens contender and suddenly being in the middle of an exciting pennant chase.
But even in a new home park with a noticeable buzz, he hasn’t traded his approach, even if screaming fans might prompt others to be more aggressive.
“I’m lucky to be here,” Vogelbach said. “But when I was in Pittsburgh, it was the same thing — you’ve gotta bring it every single day.”
Source: NY Post