During the first two weeks of May, Seattle Mariners designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach noticed a frustrating trend in his at-bats.
“I’ve been missing balls I normally don’t miss,” he said.
Vogelbach posted impressive numbers in March and April, hitting at a .310/.462/.732 clip with a 1.195 OPS that ranked near the top of the American League. During one hot stretch from April 2-9, he cracked five homers, four doubles and collected nine RBIs while going 18-for-22 at the plate.
But, May has been different. Through the first two weeks, Vogelbach slumped to 6-for-42 (.143) with a .250 on-base percentage and .381 slugging percentage.
Vogelbach said his swing has been more rushed and he’s felt like he’s pushed too hard to produce.
“Everybody has something they battle throughout the year, and it’s something that I’ve always battled my whole life,” Vogelbach said. “Just sometimes trying too much, and maybe my effort level being a little too high.
“Anytime I feel it’s going that way, I just try to over-emphasize really slowing it down and really being as easy as I can be.”
Since the Mariners returned home from a troubling East Coast trip — they went 2-8 in Cleveland, New York and Boston — Vogelbach has worked to slow things down. He said he’s tried to swing as easily and freely as possible when working on the pitching machines during early BP.
“Vogey came in here today and was working on a few things in batting practice, just trying not to swing so hard,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Monday night’s extra-innings win over Oakland.
“You see some of our younger guys today — big hacks. Just make contact, the ball will fly. With the amount of home runs that are going on in the game right now, these guys are some kind of strong anyway, just square it up.”
He’s worked to getting back to the productive early plate appearances that have guided him to a .248/.390/.602 slash line this season.
Despite the slide, he still ranks fifth in the AL in slugging, sixth in OPS (.992) and 10th in on-base percentage. His 26 walks are tied for eighth in the AL, and his 11 home runs are tied for ninth with teammate Mitch Haniger and New York’s Gary Sanchez.
“I’m not totally where I want to be, but I know it’s not going to happen overnight, so (I want to) just continue to make strides every day,” Vogelbach said. “Kind of got out of my approach a little bit, but it happens. It’s a long season, and pitchers are really good in this league.”.
He’s started to see some returns on the adjustments. In Seattle’s two-game series against Oakland, Vogelbach went 2-for-7, but blasted two game-changing homers and walked twice.
Monday night, his three-run shot to center in the eighth tied a game against the A’s that seemed lost, and the Mariners eventually walked off in extra innings.
“Vogey literally said today, ‘I’m going to try to swing 40 percent today, and just make contact.’ He’s that strong, and obviously (Lou) Trivino is out there throwing real hard,” Servais said of the homer. “The ball jumped.”
Servais was equally, if not more, impressed by how Vogelbach handled his at-bat in the 10th that eventually contributed to Seattle’s win.
“Obviously the Vogelbach three-run homer gets us back into it, but probably more importantly, there’s two outs nobody on the last inning and Vogey doesn’t try to do too much,” Servais said.
“A 3-1 borderline pitch up, he doesn’t go after it and try to be a hero again, he just takes his walk. It says a lot about him and his mindset when he takes an at-bat.”
Vogelbach said the energy from home run in the previous at-bat translated to his at-bat in the 10th, and he was able to slow his swing.
“It just felt good to get back to swinging 50 percent and let the bat and the ball do the work,” he said.
Vogelbach sent a solo shot to right to give the Mariners their first lead in Tuesday’s win, and has homered in back-to-back games for the third time this season.
The Mariners are 8-2 this season when Vogelbach hits a home run, and he’s looking to build on Seattle’s two-game winning streak since returning home.
“We went through a little skid there where we didn’t swing the bats as great as we wanted to, but it’s not like they went anywhere,” Vogelbach said. “Guys in the lineup can all hit. It’s baseball. You go through ups and downs, and I think things have kind of started to turn a little bit for the better.”