Shortly after he was acquired last year, there was a discussion in one of the Game Chatters about Daniel Vogelbach. Somebody, think it was Name, asked why people liked him. My response then was, everyone loves a fat guy. Fast forward to 2023 and a large segment of the fanbase not only doesn’t love Vogelbach, they want him off the team completely. He did lose some weight but not enough to deserve the vitriol that now comes his way.

Your eye rolls can be felt thru the interwebs – vitriol? Here are some comments from three different people on this site:

“Vogelbach is not a winner and should be released.”
“Vogelbach is a limited DH. No field position, slow runner.”
“He is limited in more than the platoon in that he is a glacier on the bases and basically has no position. I’d prefer Dom Smith. The only thing Vogey has going for him is a $1.5MM team option.”

It’s never a good idea to focus exclusively on what a player can’t do and ignore what he provides the club. This point was driven home to me 40 years ago with how the Mets handled Wally Backman. If you weren’t around then, the Mets bent over backwards to play anyone but Backman at second base because he wasn’t a good fielder.

Bill Almon, Bob Bailor, Ron Gardenhire, Brian Giles, Doug Flynn, Jose Moreno and Tom Veryzer are some of the guys they played at second base instead of Backman. You know what those seven guys had in common? They couldn’t hit. And you know what the early 80s Mets needed? Guys who could hit. In 509 PA in the majors from 1980-1983, Backman had a 104 OPS+ and you’d think the club would be thrilled to have a second baseman who didn’t stink in the batter’s box. In that same time period, Giles had 605 PA and a 66 OPS+ while Flynn had 817 PA and a 64 OPS+ as a Met.

Finally, Davey Johnson arrived in 1984 and they stopped wasting time with the Flynns and Giles of the world and installed Backman as the primary second baseman and eventually as the lefty hitting part of a platoon. He rewarded the faith with a 113 OPS+ in 1986 and a 117 in 1988.

Even more so than Backman, Vogelbach is a platoon player. The Mets should bend over backwards to make sure he never faces a lefty. Vogelbach is 0-7 versus LHP this year and was 1-8 against southpaws with the Mets last season. With that out of the way, what does Vogelbach do versus RHP? Here’s what he’s done just with the Mets:

2022: .262/.404/.454
2023: .282/.421/.423

That’s simply terrific production.

The best stat for judging offensive performance is wRC+. OPS+ is a very good stat – one that gets you overwhelmingly close to the best answer. But wRC+ is the gold standard. And that’s because it uses Linear Weights to properly rank each offensive event. People complain that Vogelbach’s walks aren’t as valuable as the hits that other players get. And you know what? wRC+ agrees!

Here are the yearly values that FanGraphs uses for each offensive outcome, scaled so an out is equal to zero. This is what each event is worth so far in 2023:

BB – .700
1B – .889
2B – 1.256
3B – 1.586
HR – 2.030

We all agree that a lot of Vogelbach’s value comes from his ability to draw walks. And we all agree that a walk is not as good as a single, much less a home run. And even with that, Vogelbach has posted a 149 wRC+ versus RHP as a Met. How good is that? Last year, that would have been the eighth-best mark among qualified hitters in the majors, just behind Nolan Arenado’s 151.

Sure, it would be nice if Vogelbach hit more homers. But you can say the same thing about every other player on the Mets besides Pete Alonso. And again, it’s just not a good idea to focus on what a player doesn’t do at the exclusion of what he does produce.

It would be wonderful if the Mets had Yordan Alvarez as their DH, a guy who rakes against both righties and lefties. But if you don’t have that stud at DH, the next best thing is to create him with a platoon. And the Mets have 2/3 of that stud with Vogelbach. It’s been a failure of the organization to find the remaining 1/3 of the equation.

But just because the Mets have yet to find the righty to pair with Vogelbach does not mean Vogelbach himself has been a failure. The vitriol directed by some at Vogelbach should be directed towards Darin Ruf and Tommy Pham and Mark Canha. And some of it should be directed at Billy Eppler for trying to fill the righty DH with guys in their mid-30s. Canha’s the youngest of the trio just mentioned, at age 34.

Everyone worries about calling up a prospect and not playing him full time. My worry is continuing to play guys who haven’t shown the hitting chops to be successful. My preference would be to call up Mark Vientos and have him be the starting DH versus LHP the rest of the year. To anyone who’s worried about a rookie playing just 1-3 times a week – how about worrying over the .191 AVG with 3 XBH in 57 PA by Canha and Pham as a DH, instead?

Maybe Canha and/or Pham turns it around. It’s among the possibilities, as 57 PA isn’t very many. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be wise to advocate making changes based on a sample that small. But with the team having dropped five straight series to teams with losing records overall, these circumstances aren’t normal.

Plus, my preseason expectations for both Canha and Pham were not good. My forecast was for Canha to post a .687 OPS with Pham producing a .586 OPS. To date, overall they have OPS marks of .655 and .693, respectively. And Pham’s mark is that high because of 3 HR in 62 ABs. That HR ratio of 1 every 20.7 ABs, which is virtually the same as Matt Olson (20.6) when he hit 34 HR last year. Do you really think Pham’s going to continue on that pace? Wanting to move on from these two is not something based on early season results. It’s that their early results (with the exception of Pham’s HR) line up with my less-than-good, full-season expectations for them.

The Mets need offense wherever they can find it. They’re getting that offense when Vogelbach is playing versus RHP. His 127 wRC+ (which includes his output versus LHP) this season is the third-best mark on the club, behind only Brandon Nimmo (147) and Alonso (137). Vientos has a 168 wRC+ at Triple-A so far this season. It would be extremely unrealistic to expect him to match that number in the majors. But he is batting .360 with 4 XBH in 28 PA against lefties so far this season.

In theory, the Vogelbach/Vientos (the V&V Boys!) platoon could give the Mets the production at DH that the Astros get with Alvarez. But that was the theory with Ruf and Pham, too, and we all have seen how that’s worked out. But just because it didn’t work with old guys past their prime doesn’t mean it couldn’t work with a young guy on the upswing of his career.

It’s time to find out.

8 comments on “The unfairly maligned Daniel Vogelbach and the Mets’ DH situation

  • NYM6986

    Fair analysis as I have not been a Vogelbach fan but as you point out the numbers don’t lie. One big issue with this year’s team is we essentially retuned the same team offensively from 2022 and appeared to really not take into account player’s decline as they continue to age. Have we decided if Vientos can play adequately anywhere in the field? If that is the case being him up and say goodbye to Pham. McNeil can always be our 4th outfielder. Then bring up Mauricio and send Guillorme and his non existent bat to Syracuse. Our offense struggles need a shot in the arm. We can’t keep falling further behind in the division and have not taken advantage of the schedule that has us playing more games outside the division.

  • Foxdenizen

    Vogelbach has an OBP this year of .389, which is very good. His lifetime OBP is considerably lower at .343. Could it be that pitchers are now pitching more carefully around him, since most of the time the hitters below him in the order like Escobar, Canha, Marte etc are not providing much offense?

    • Brian Joura

      I think it’s more likely a combination of not facing many lefties, along with an improved eye is the reason. Lifetime, Vogelbach has a .368 OBP versus RHP

  • MikeW

    Plus, Vogelbach only makes $ 1.5 million. It’s time to jettison players who can’t hit and bring up Mauricio and Vientos. Need to shake up the team a bit.

  • T.J.

    Vogie has done his job this since coming to the Mets, no doubt. Even with the limitations pointed out. Barring a severe downturn in production, he should not be penalized so long as the Mets are contending.

    So long as Mauricio and Vientos keep raking in AAA, Pham and Cahna should be sleeping with one eye open. They are on the clock.

  • Metsense

    There are 45 major league ball players with 70 or more at bats that are termed as a DH in Fangraphs . Vogelbach is ranked 10th in wRC+ at 131. Vogelbach is a good DH. The other part of the platoon is Tommy Pham and is ranked 30th with 93 wRC+. That part should be upgraded.
    Of the 298 major league players, Vogelbach is ranked 61 for wRC+. Not to shabby.

  • ChrisF

    As it always is, cherry picking the numbers to tell you what you want to see is awesome. So I’ll do the same. I think Vogelbach is a purely forgettable DH on a .500 team. No pitcher anywhere in the league wakes up and says, “How am I gonna survive those ABs?”

    I wonder why? Let’s look at the DV ISO value for 2023: .122 – no way around that, it sucks. The last thing a team needs from a DH is to be hopeless on the bases and only get on by not getting extra bases. Not to mention, he cannot play in the field. We have plenty of on base types. From DH, we need abundant “drive in the runs”. This also shows up in the WPA of 0.5, but hey at least its positive. Last year it was -0.2. Vogelbach’s SLG is a sad .378 with an OPS of .762, again showing his numbers are propped up by soft stuff. I guess that’s plainly visible in that he has a poor 6 XBH this season, 4 doubles and 2 HR. If you told me he traded off the HR for piles of doubles in the gaps then Id be more impressed. As for now, Vogelbach is another guy in the line up of a team that cant win against pretty bad teams. He not maligned. He’s neither much to talk about or a ton to complain about, but rather a basically just below average player who fulfills only 1/2 the DH duties and provides little power. That’s the facts.

    • Brian Joura

      Cherry picking would be selecting, oh, I don’t know – WPA? But fine, let’s look at WPA.

      Despite your weak attempt to dismiss a WPA of 0.5 in six weeks, that’s actually a pretty strong number. It’s the third-best mark on the club. And WPA is a counting stat, which makes Vogelbach’s results with his platoon status even more impressive. And no matter how many times you say “half” a LHB in a platoon situation is closer to 2/3. There have been 46,107 PA this year in MLB and 33,518 have come against RHP. That’s 72.6%. Thru a small sample, the Mets have faced more lefties than normal so far. Which makes Vogelbach’s WPA stand out even more.

      You look at Vogelbach and decide if he’s not supplying power he’s worthless. That just seems crazy to me, right up there with if a leadoff guy isn’t stealing bases, he can’t possibly be good. There’s all kinds of ways to provide value. Just because a player isn’t providing value in the way that you want him to – doesn’t mean he isn’t providing value.

      But you’ve made up your mind on Vogelbach and maybe four years from now you’ll reassess. Oh, is Brandon Nimmo still a fourth outfielder?

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