Drayer: 3 young Mariners succeeding at plate with 3 different approaches
J.P. Crawford, Daniel Vogelbach and Domingo Santana are three young hitters who have enjoyed success at the plate for the Mariners this season.
The 24-year-old Crawford and 26-year-old Vogelbach and Santana each bring a mature approach to the plate that has been instrumental in what they have been able to accomplish offensively early on in their careers. In short, they know who they are as hitters. Earlier this week I talked with them to get their own words on their processes when they step into the batter’s box.
“Right now for me it’s about timing, not missing pitches, not fouling off pitches that should be hit. I’m getting the chance to play, making the best of it, not trying to do too much.”
When it all comes together, we see things like his first inning home run against the Orioles on Sunday. Again, not trying to do too much. The approach in that at bat?
“Honestly, hit the ball back up the middle. I was on-time, put a good swing on it.”
In a walk-off interview on the 710 ESPN Seattle broadcast following a recent win in Oakland, Crawford laughed when I pointed out that one of the things we were learning about him early on was that he hit the ball hard. It is something he is certainly capable of, but Crawford said it was something he was actually trying not to do.
“I need to use more of the field and not try to pull too much. It causes a little bit of a loop in my swing. Not trying to hit the ball too hard allows my hands to work through the zone and out the zone instead of pulling off of it. Try to hit the ball up the middle every time no matter if it is inside or outside you always want to keep your hands going forward instead of going around. It’s a feel thing getting out of the pull. Sitting inside trying to hook balls and trying to hit homers, that’s when I get into a little funk.
“Hitting the ball over the shortstop for doubles and up the middle for base hits, that’s me. That’s my game. That’s all I try to do.”
Despite leading the team in wRC+ at 147 – 10th in all of baseball – Vogelbach struggled in May, hitting just .187. While the average was not good, he still managed to post a near average wRC+ that month, and most importantly he didn’t let his struggles snowball; instead, he bounced back with a strong June. In a step-back year for the Mariners, it is important for the team to see the struggles and the impact they have on the individuals. What we learned about Vogelbach is he has a plan when he not able to mash the baseball.
“What I have learned is to minimize,” Vogelbach said. “When you are not always getting hits, you can always find a way to do things. Take walks. That is something I try to take pride in, minimizing at-bats. (Going) 0 for 2 with two walks is not a bad day. I know a lot of people may think you are 0-fer, but 0 for 2 is not a bad day and 0 for 3 is a lot different than 0 for 4, and those at-bats add up. Just really try to minimize and just until I have a better feel in the box and start going again.”
While some will try to swing their way out of struggles, that is not Vogelbach’s approach. He’s not one to panic if he is not hitting the ball out of the park.
“Take what the the pitcher gives you. If they want to walk you, let them walk you. The ultimate goal is to get on base and score runs, especially in this lineup where anyone in the lineup can drive you in at any time.”
Vogelbach is also not going to overwhelm himself with the information that is around him. He will use other resources however.
“I’m not an analytics guy. All I want to know is what he throws, what his strikeout pitch is and that’s it. (Mariners hitting coach Tim) Laker and J.D. (Mariners hitting strategist Jarret DeHart), they are unbelievable. They care so much, they put the time in, they are there every day whenever you need it and I am so thankful we have those guys on our side.”
Santana, who currently leads the AL in RBIs, is well on his way to proving his 2017 breakout season with Milwaukee was not a fluke. The sample of 20 games is too small to say there is a correlation, but since being moved back to right field from left, Santana has been even better at the plate, hitting .341/.396/.646 (for a 1.042 OPS). His approach is built around not spending too much time at the plate during his at-bats.
“I’m trying to keep everything simple, trying to put the ball in play,” Santana said. “I always try to put the ball in play as quick as I can, early in counts. I’m not trying to be in the hole too early or too often. Try to keep it simple, put a simple swing on the ball.”
He is aggressive at the plate for a reason.
“I strike out a lot. I feel like if I am always in the hole, it’s a lot tougher for me to feel comfortable pulling the trigger. I just think the pitcher is always trying to get ahead so I am just ready 0-0.”
Santana is hitting .347/.439/.643 (.1.081 OPS) with runners in scoring position this year, and he has driven in 27 runs with two outs.
“It’s always nice to get an RBI with two outs or no matter how many outs there are. I just take my time, try to tell myself that I have have nobody on base and try to find that comfortable feeling in the box. Try to not take all of the noise around me and let it affect what’s going on. I think I have been pretty good at that, that’s why I am getting RBIs in that situation.
“Keep it simple, especially in that situation, the pitcher is already with a lot of adrenaline, he’s already in the hole. Obviously he wants to get ahead, put me in the same uncomfortable position so I always try to be ready 0-0 and if he makes a mistake hack at it, and if he doesn’t try my best not to pull the trigger.”
While Santana has a very good idea of who he is at the plate, he is always looking to learn more.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches and I always like to talk baseball with a lot of players. It doesn’t matter how good of a player they are because everybody goes through almost the same thing, but everybody doesn’t have the same answers so I try to talk to everybody and just pick the most important things that I think will work for me.”