Despite having a high launch angle and great hard hit rate, Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach isn’t hitting for as much power as he should be.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Daniel Vogelbach to be their designated hitter for the upcoming season, they were hoping to get some power from him. Last season, Vogey was among the best hitters in raw power, having a 91.4 MPH exit velo and 48.7% hard-hit rate. However, he managed just a .163 isolated slugging percentage. His sub-12 degree launch angle was the main factor contributing to his lack of power output.
This season Vogelbach has been a solid hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is currently batting .235/.335/.446 with a .340 wOBA, and 119 wRC+. Those might not seem like impressive numbers, especially for a designated hitter, but they’re still well above league average. However, Vogelbach should be hitting a whole lot better than he has, and the underlying numbers prove this.
Vogelbach’s hard-hit and exit velo numbers haven’t changed much from last year. He has a 46.2% hard-hit rate and 90.5 MPH exit velocity. This isn’t a Ke’Bryan Hayes situation either. He significantly increased his launch angle from 11.7 degrees last season to 16.9 degrees this year. That’s just under his 2019 launch angle of 17.1 degrees when he hit 30 home runs and had a .232 isolated slugging percentage.
But his isolated slugging percentage this year? It’s at a .200-even mark. He has 10 home runs in 232 plate appearances, which puts him on pace for about 21 if he reaches the 500-PA benchmark. But that’s pretty underwhelming, especially for a guy who is in the 77th percentile of exit velo and 79th percentile of hard-hit rate, and the expected numbers agree with that sentiment.
Vogey has a .513 expected slugging percentage. That’s in the top 82nd percentile of players. His expected weighted on-base average (or xwOBA) comes in at .373. With a .253 expected batting average and .355 expected on-base percentage, Vogelbach should be a .250/.350/.500 hitter. That would be a lot more productive than the .235/.336/.435 line he currently has.
Even with the juiced baseball of 2019, his overall batted ball profile is very similar to that season. Plus his strikeout rate isn’t terrible. He’s in the bottom 33rd percentile, which isn’t great but far from the worst. He’s also selective, being in the 70th percentile of whiff rate and 94th percentile of chase rate. So is there any hope for him to increase his power output?
He has done very good for himself for the last half a month. Since June 15th, the designated hitter has been batting .280/.429/.520 with a .413 wOBA and 168 wRC+. His strikeout rate is under 20% in this stretch, coming in at 19%, and his walk rate clocks in at 20.6%. It’s not like he’s getting terribly lucky either. His batting average on balls in play sits at .314. While it is a small sample size, he is the fifth-best hitter in baseball since June 15th, ranking 5th in wRC+, 6th in OPS, and 5th in wOBA. So while it is a small sample size, maybe it’s the start of a hot second half for the powerful DH.