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Has the league already caught up to Mariners slugger Daniel Vogelbach?

Mariners 1B Daniel Vogelbach has struck out seven times in his last three games. (AP)

At one point last week, Mariners first baseman Daniel Vogelbach was one of the hottest hitters in baseball.

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In a seven-game stretch from April 2-11, Vogelbach hit .462 with six home runs, four doubles, five walks, eight runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.839 OPS. But in his three games since, he has gone just 2 for 11 (.182) with seven strikeouts and no extra-base hits.

Has the league already caught up to the 26-year-old slugger?

Former MLB pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, Mariners analyst for 710 ESPN Seattle and ROOT Sports, shared his take on the subject Tuesday on Danny, Dave and Moore.

“I’m not gonna sit here and say they’ve figured him out and he’s done,” Rowland-Smith said. “When you have success and all of the sudden they slide you up in that lineup – well guess what? – the scouting report is gonna get thicker and thicker on him because he’s a guy that you can’t let beat you. If you’re hitting seventh, eighth and you’re putting up some numbers, they’re not gonna put you under the microscope as much. Big league pitchers, they’re studs. When they can get ahead in the count 0-1, they get nasty quick.”

While opposing pitchers may be taking aim at an exposed weakness in Vogelbach’s swing, Rowland-Smith pointed out that the pressure of trying to prove himself worthy of regular playing time at the MLB level could be causing Vogelbach to press.

“I think for him that the expectations are different. He’s in the middle of the lineup, he’s had a ton of success and the whole thing with him is to stick around in the big leagues as opposed to hit in Triple-A, come up for a little bit and then go back down. So I think mentally for him, he’s kinda pressing the panic button … saying ‘I gotta produce a little bit,’ and you’re starting to see him swing at bad pitches.”

Rowland-Smith saw a specific example of that on Monday, Vogelbach’s second 0-for-4 performance in as many days.

“You see that pitch down and away and he has that little half-swing, as if to say ‘Oh man, I’m supposed to be swinging at this,’ or ‘I was looking for another pitch.'”

Ultimately it will be up to Vogelbach to show that he can make his own adjustment to the way pitchers have adjusted their approaches to him.

“These pitchers can figure you out and find holes,” Rowland-Smith said. “The best in the game, the guys who stick around and get 500-600 at-bats, are the guys that counter-punch and make another adjustment. So this time in Daniel Vogelbach’s career is not make-or-break, but this is gonna show us a lot.”

You can hear the full segment with Rowland-Smith in the player embedded in this post or download a podcast version at this link.

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