As we learned more than 10 years ago, Chicks Dig the Long Ball. So it only makes sense that those old curmudgeons on Park Ave decided to “Capri Sun the baseballs”, as Grey so eloquently wrote. But Son? If chicks dig the long ball and old curmudgeons do not actually hit dingers, then how does that benefit them? Well, home runs bring excitement, which fosters viewership, which enhances advertisting revenue, which boosts pay of old curmudgeon, which some chicks dig. Ya dig? Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. Anyways, it’s gotten so ridiculous that Tommy La Stella (5′ 11″ 180lbs), Eduardo Escobar (5′ 10″ 185lbs), and Derek Dietrich (6′ 0″ 205lbs) are among the leaders in long balls this season. On the flip side, there’s Daniel Vogelbach, all 6′ 0″ 250 pounds of not-so-lean, mean, hitting dingers machine, who has clubbed 14 homers so far this season. Is it sustainable?
Vogelbach began his professional baseball career back in 2011. He had two espresso shots of MLB action in 2016 and 2017 (13 and 31 plate appearances respectively). Last season, he at least received a cup of coffee and garnered 102 plate appearances. In those 146 big league plate appearances, he hit four homers and batted near the Mendoza Line. Not so good.
His minor league numbers were excellent, though, as he often had a strikeout rate under 20%, a walk rate over 10%, with a batting average around .290. He hit over 15 home runs in a season five times, with a high of 20 in 2018 (Triple-A). There was chatter of inducting him into the Quad-A Hall of Fame.
Well, so far in 2019, he has a .258/.393/.629 slash with a 17.8% walk rate, 22.1% strikeout rate, and .371 ISO! The walk and strikeout rates are not surprising, as they are consistent with his minor league profile. Neither is the power. Granted, a .371 ISO is ridiculous, so some regression can be expected, but he’s a huge human being, so it may not be that precipitous.
Looking at the numbers, the GB%, FB%, and HR/FB rate all jump out. Vogelbach has a ground ball rate of 26.8%. Last season, that number was 44.3%. The fly ball rate is 52.6% this season. Last year, that number was 34.4%. Finally, the HR/FB rate is 27.5%. Last year, it was at 19%. Statcast data has his launch angle at 19.6 this season. His career average is 11. Last March, David Laurila of Fangraphs wrote an article that explained the mechanical changes that Vogelbach was going to employ in order to access more power. The power didn’t manifest last season, but it’s on full display this year.
If you’ve read me at all, you know that I’m a big plate discipline guy. Well, Vogelbach has a swinging strike rate of 8.4% and a chase rate of 23%. I’m about to post an ad on Craigslist for the position of “Fanner when things get hot in here.” For a power hitter, those are excellent numbers.
Now, there is one big bugaboo with Vogelbach: his inability to hit left-handed pitching. He has a career 30.2% strikeout rate against them, a .109 average, and .152 ISO. While he has shown some improvement this season against them (12% walk rate, 20% strikeout rate, and .286 ISO), the sample size is small (25 plate appearances) and the Mariners will more than likely sit him. Good thing that most pitchers are right-handed. In his division, I count only five lefties. Nom nom nom.