Going into the 2023 season, the Mets had a plan to try to replicate what they did in the second half of last season at the DH spot. Daniel Vogelbach, being the lefty, would be the long end of the platoon to face right-handed pitchers, and the short side of the platoon would be some combination of Tommy Pham, Mark Canha, and other right-handed Mets regulars who needed a day off from the field.
By Steve Cohen’s own admission, the Mets came into the season a bat short, and for whatever reason, this resulted in a lot of scrutiny placed on Vogelbach before the season even began. This was kind of strange for a guy who had just put up a 143 wRC+ in 183 plate appearances for the Mets down the stretch of 2022 and a 150 wRC+ with a .497 SLG% against right-handed pitchers for the season. It’s undeniable that Vogelbach is a flawed and limited player, and a very frustrating one to watch due to his passive approach. But, as a self-admitted defender of Vogelbach before the season, I figured he was at the very least a useful player to have around against right-handed pitchers, and an easy guy to upgrade from at the trade deadline if necessary.
Unfortunately, Vogelbach did not do much to back my support or silence those criticisms of him during the season. He got off to a decent start, hitting .271/.417/.375 in the first month of the season. He was not hitting for a lick of power, but he was getting lucky on balls in play, and it would make sense that he would eventually start driving the ball more frequently like he did in 2022.
Well, he did not. And the batted ball luck, predictably, ran out very quickly. Over his next 127 PAs from the start of May to early July, the Mets’ DH hit just .179/.276/.321. He was hitting the ball on the ground far too much—about 50% of the time during that stretch—while also having an IFFB of 14.3% and a strikeout rate of 25.3% during that stretch, meaning nearly 90% of his PAs ended in a ground ball, strikeout, or pop-up. It was just a brutal time for Vogelbach, and one that would’ve gotten many players of his ilk DFA’d.
It didn’t win him many fans, either. Vogelbach was getting booed at Citi Field on a near-nightly basis, criticized in the media, and, sadly, mocked by some groups of Mets fans online.
Vogelbach came out in the second half and pretty much played like himself again, hitting .245/.344/.481 over with 8 home runs over 122 PAs after the All-Star break, but it unfortunately didn’t matter much at that point. The dye was already cast on Vogelbach. He wasn’t the main reason the Mets failed to meet expectations this year, but he was one of them.
It got to a point where it wasn’t exactly clear why Vogelbach kept his spot on the team, even as he was performing better in the second half. He was always very limited and didn’t have much of a future in the organization, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to keep sending him out there everyday in a lost season while he was struggling to do the only thing he can do. His own manager seemed to agree, reportedly battling with former GM Billy Eppler over his playing time and even questioning why he was still on the team at points.
Those battles are probably the reason for Vogelbach’s very odd playing time distribution; he’d go days without getting into a game and then would suddenly show up hitting 5th, he got a week off in the middle of June to “clear his head” despite taking up a roster spot the whole time, and only received 3 PAs after September 14th and did not appear in the team’s final eight games despite still being on the roster. Those are the types of things that happen when a team can’t agree on what to do with a player.
The Mets will almost assuredly non-tender Vogelbach this winter, making him a free agent and ending his Mets career once and for all. It’s a shame that his contributions down the stretch in 2022 will largely be overshadowed by his subpar 2023 and the discourse and eventual controversy that surrounded him and his playing time.