The Seattle Mariners front office, noted readers of Lookout Landing dot com, surely must have read my 40 in 40 season preview for Daniel Vogelbach and took my words to heart because in 2019, the Mariners let Daniel Vogelbach play. No further accusations of cowardice could be thrown at the team on the matter. Our Large Adult Son played and he played a lot. He played well enough in the first half and change of 2019 to earn his first All-Star Game appearance and to be the team’s sole representative. He had the best pure-DH numbers among all the other candidates on the ballot, in fact.
I cannot stress this enough: Daniel Vogelbach outranks every other top DH vote getter for the #MLBASG in fWAR and wRC+, some by as much 1.5 wins #VoteForVogey #VogeyTheVote #Vogey4HRDerby https://t.co/lCYff2UJ9B— Eric Sanford (@sanford_and_son) June 20, 2019
It was all happening. Daniel Vogelbach was blossoming into the American League Designated Hitter that many fans had hoped for and believed he could be. He was not wasting his first real shot at a full MLB season’s worth of at-bats. He was proving himself.
The sky was the limit after Vogey’s first half. Look at these stats! They named a really good sandwich after him!
In case you didn’t really follow the rest of the season, please avert your eyes from these second half stats.
A major cause of his second-half struggles? Not swinging enough, especially at pitches right over the heart of the plate, as documented brilliantly here in a FanPost by commenter Ryan Blake.
Now, a second half cliff-tumble is nothing new for a player in their first full MLB season. It happens a lot. However, the timing and context for Vogelbach is particularly troubling mainly bbecause Vogelbach doesn’t have another position besides DH that he can play regularly. If he’s playing first base every 8-10 games while hitting the cover off the ball as DH, sure, that’s fine. But, the Mariners have several other players who could potentially fill the DH position in addition to serviceably playing a position in the field, which gives the team more roster flexibility. If Vogelbach finished the season with numbers similar to his first half, there would be no question that the DH position would be his for 2020 and possibly beyond. But, since he cratered so severely, that opens up debate for whether some rotating combination of Domingo Santana, Jake Fraley, Tom Murphy, Omar Narvaéz, and Austin Nola would be a better option for DH next season (assuming all those names are still on the roster, which, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) given their positional flexibility.
As the site’s noted giant homer for Daniel Vogelbach, obviously I want to see another full season from him in a Mariners uniform. I hold onto hope that he can make adjustments to how pitchers have now adjusted to him and that we may see a return of his elite batter’s eye and plate discipline that we saw in the first half of 2019. The 2020 season is not “supposed” to be a contending season, but I think we can fairly assume that Vogelbach will not have a particularly long leash for struggling at the plate given the array of options, both on the roster and on the farm teams. He’ll need to come out and have an excellent showing at Spring Training (which has never been a problem for him) and he’ll need to establish himself quickly in March and April, or else I fear patience will run short for our dearest Son.
The biggest question about Vogelbach before 2019 was, “What can he do with a full season of plate appearances?” Our answer was like eating a banana with an giant, unseen bruise. “Great, delicious, this is very fulfilling,” and then, “Oh god, what the hell is that?” I want to go back to that first half, please.