Can Mets new hitting coach unlock Daniel Vogelbach?

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Daniel Vogelbach powers the Mets to a win
New York Mets’ Daniel Vogelbach watches his home run during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

When the Mets made a trade deadline deal to acquire Daniel Vogelbach from the Pittsburgh Pirates to be their designated hitter, it wasn’t met with overwhelming praise. However, he quickly became a fan favorite in New York and improved his performance, slashing .255/.393/.436 in 55 games with six home runs and 25 RBIs

While those numbers were better than what he had done in Pittsburgh, they are not the numbers you typically look for in a designated hitter for a team that has designs on raising a World Series trophy at the end of the year. In order for the Mets to make that dream a reality, they are likely going to need more from Vogelbach. 


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In particular, they are going to need their hefty lefty to stop being so passive. 

Statcast measures what it refers to as “Meatball Swing%” which records the percentage of the time a player swings at a “meatball,” which is designated as a pitch right down the middle of the strike zone. Vogelbach was dead last in the majors for players who had at least 250 at-bats, swinging at “meatballs” just 43% of the time. 

That was the lowest in MLB by 16%.

Vogelbach also had the lowest swing rate overall in the majors, swinging just 32.2% of the time. Juan Soto was the next lowest with just a 35.5% swing rate, but Soto had a “Meatball Swing%” of 72.8%, which implies that he’s a selective hitter overall but is aggressive on pitches over the heart of the plate. 

In fact, every other hitter who had an overall swing rate under 40% during the 2022 season had a “Meatball Swing%” over 60%, which makes Vogelbach the clear outlier. While that patient approach has led to a lot of walks and a high on-base percentage, there’s a strong argument that walking is not particularly valuable for a player like Vogelbach who is not a threat to steal bases, even if he did lose 20 pounds this offseason

Given that the left-handed-hitter has hit the ball hard in his time in the majors, the Mets could benefit from him unlocking his power by being a bit more aggressive on pitches in the strike zone. 

Fortunately for both Vogelbach and the team, the Mets may have hired the right man for the job this offseason. 

In November, New York hired former Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals coach Jeff Albert to be the new director of hitting throughout the organization. Albert spent four years as Houston’s minor league hitting coordinator and served as the major league club’s assistant hitting coach and spent the last four years as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.

Mets new hitting coach Jeff Albert
Mets new hitting coach Jeff Albert before a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022 (Wikimedia Commons)

As the director of hitting, Albert will be responsible for ensuring that the organization’s philosophy regarding hitting approaches is consistent throughout all of the levels, including the major leagues. A big part of Albert’s philosophy centers on pulled flyballs. 

A lot was written about Albert’s coaching approach while with the St. Louis Cardinals, but the biggest takeaway is that Albert “is clearly a proponent of using data, and as a result, he is in tune with the modern trend of hitting balls in the air, specifically to the pull side.”

Last year the Cardinals pulled the ball 41.9% of the time, which was good for 7th-most in baseball. The Mets pulled the ball 38.4% of the time, 28th in the league. The Cardinals also had a flyball rate of 39.3%, which was 9th-most in the league, while the Mets ranked 22nd with just a 35.5% flyball rate.

Perhaps not coincidentally, St. Louis had a 12.4% home run to flyball rate (HR/FB%), which was 12th in the league, and finished 9th with 197 total home runs. The Mets finished 17th with an 11.2% HR/FB rate and were 15th with 171 total home runs. 

If Albert is able to shift those numbers, we could see power spikes for a few of the Mets’ big hitters. While Pete Alonso would be the first name that pops into people’s heads, the bigger impact could be on players like Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Vogelbach. 

Alonso already leads the Mets with a 45% pull rate and is second to Eduardo Escobar with a 44% flyball rate. Meanwhile, Marte finished 2022 with a 28.95 flyball rate, Vogelbach had a 35.3% mark, and Canha had a 34.7% flyball rate with just a 41.7% pull rate. 

Marte and Canha also had poor barrel rates and hard hit metrics, so the likelihood of them becoming true power hitters is highly unlikely. However, Vogelbach was 3rd on the Mets in barrel rate at 8.8% and has a 9.6% mark for his career. 

When Vogelbach spiked 30 home runs in 2019 with the Mariners, he had the highest flyball rate of his career (44.8%) and the second-highest pull rate of his career (41.3%). He also swung the bat more overall and swung the bat in the zone 6% more than he did in 2022. 

The Mets need that hitter again or perhaps even a more aggressive one. 

It’s possible that Vogelbach was impacted by an organizational approach in Pittsburgh or just became enamored with the idea of getting on base and drawing walks, but if he’s going to hit in the middle of the New York lineup this year, they are going to need him to tap into his power more. 

He’s currently slated by Roster Resource to bat 6th for the Mets behind Brandon Nimmo, Marte, Francisco Lindor, Alonso, and Jeff McNeil. Given the talent in the top end of the lineup, Vogelbach figures to come up with men on base often. Walking isn’t going to help the team drive in those runs. They need him to hunt for pitches he can drive and be less passive. 



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Daniel Vogelbach Mets
Daniel Vogelbach (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)