When you think of traditional leadoff hitters, you think about the Rickey Hendersons of the world–fast, getting on base at a good clip and causing havoc on the basepaths. You probably don’t think about a 6-foot, 270-pound first baseman/designated hitter. Despite that, Daniel Vogelbach has been the Pirates’ leadoff man against right-handed pitchers so far this season.
The logic behind it seems questionable at first, but when you look at Vogelbach’s numbers a bit deeper, you can see the process and how it makes sense. Vogelbach’s career OBP is .338, he has an an excellent BB% at 15.5, and he gets into deep counts at a good rate.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot right now,” said Vogelbach. “[Hitting leadoff ] is nice. I enjoy hitting anywhere; whether you’re leading off or not, there’s going to be multiple innings where you’re leading off an inning.”
Being a table-setter is an extremely important role for any baseball team. As a table-setter, you’re in charge of sparking some confidence in the lineup and creating early traffic for guys like Bryan Reynolds or Ke’Bryan Hayes to drive in some early runs in the Pirates’ case.
“With the guys hitting behind me, you feel like you get on base; we’re set to have a big inning just because of the guys that are due up,” said Vogelbach. “I know my job is to get on base and let those guys get to work.”
So far in the early season, Vogelbach has been the Pirates’ leadoff hitter in six games. During those six games, Vogelbach is slashing .333/.333/.625, with an OPS of .958. Unless the Pirates decide to give Vogelbach a rest day on Wednesday, he will bat leadoff again. Only time will tell if Can Vogelbach continue his success in that role. But so far, so good.