I didn’t plan on writing on a Blue Jays player two articles in a row. I wanted to do an article on a turn-around player and so far this year, there has arguably been no bigger turn-around than Adam Lind.
Typically, in my Diagnostic Testing, I identify problems a player is having, why they are problems and what needs to happen to fix them. Lind has already fixed his problem, so rather I will just discuss what the numbers say to his turn-around.
Adam Lind’s 2009 season was something that a baseball player dreams of. He hit 35 home runs, finished with a batting average over .300 and finished 15th in all of baseball with a .932 OPS.
For three straight years after that, Lind failed to reach any of those marks again. In fact, he never hit more than 26 HRs, never hit over .255 and never had an OPS over .734. It seemed this once-thought-of franchise cornerstone who won the 2009 Silver Slugger for the AL DH had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting his $8M 2014 team option picked up. Now, I’m not so sure.
There was a whole host of issues with Lind, so bear with me.
- From 2010-2012, Lind had a higher K% in all three years than he did in 2009 (16.8%). He also had a lower BB% in all seasons from 2010-2012 than he did in 2009 (8.9%).
- He wasn’t seeing a lot of pitches (for him). Lind saw 4.03 pitches per plate appearance in 2009, then never went above 3.95 from 2010-2012 and was as low as 3.54 in 2011.
- He sucked against the fastball; he was a +19.3 fastball runs above average in 2009, was a negative producer for three years after that: -0.8, -3.7, -2.8. As a fantasy owner, I wouldn’t have a lot of confidence trotting up a first baseman or designated hitter in the American League East that couldn’t hit a fastball.
- According to Pitchf/x, Lind swung at 28.2% of pitches outside the strike zone (O-Swing%). He was over 30% the next three years and was as high as 36.4% in 2011.
- His overall Swing% was 43.8% in 2009, then proceeded to crack 50% each of the next two years before dropping off to 44.5% in 2012.
- He posted a respectable .780 OPS vs. LHP in 2009 (he’s always hit RHP much better, as a caveat). His OPS the next three years vs. LHP? Errrahhhh .341 in 2010, .639 in 2011, .553 in 2012. And no, that .341 is not a typo, I triple-checked it. His OPS vs. RHP, in case you’re wondering, never dipped lower than .771 in those three years.
So there you have it. He was striking out more, walking less, not seeing a lot of pitches, swinging at more bad pitches, missing on fastballs and not hitting lefties worth a damn. It was an absolute mess for Lind. So how in the world does he now have the 8th best OBP among all MLB hitters with at least 125 at-bats?
Let’s look at the earlier points one by one:
- Lind’s K% went up and his BB% went down from 2009 levels through 2010-2012. However, in 2013, Lind is sporting a career low 16.0% K-rate and a career high 13.5% BB-rate. Yep, he’s striking out less and walking more than ever.
- Lind is over 4.00 pitches/appearance for the first time since 2009, currently at 4.21. That mark is good for 15th in the American League among players with at least 150 plate appearances.
- Lind is once again hitting the fastball. For the first time since 2009, he’s above-average on the fastball at 3.2 fastball runs above average. In fact, the only pitch he doesn’t have a positive value for is the cutter. My educated guess is that a cutter from a RHP can get under the hands of a LHB.
- Lind’s 28.2% O-Swing% in 2009 was a career-high… until now. Lind is swinging at just 23% of pitches outside of the strike zone.
- In what would be another career-best, Lind’s overall swing rate is down to 36.7%, having never been lower than 43.2% (2009).
- Lind’s OPS against LHP this year? It’s 1.182, considerably higher than the .914 OPS he is sporting in 2013 against RHP…. OK OK Small Sample Size Alert!!! He’s only had 11 at-bats this year against lefties and his BABIP against them is .500, so that number is going to crash down if he gets more at-bats against southpaws. Whatever, enjoy it while it lasts! Who knows, maybe now that he has more confidence (he has to, right?) he’ll actually be able to hit lefties.
Any way you look at it, Lind has seemed to have cured all of his problems. This isn’t just 2013, either. He really sucked the first half of 2012 (.206 BA, .287 OBP, .674 OPS) but got sent down to the minors in the middle of May for a little over a month and went .304/.343/.784 from June 25th onward.
We’re approaching “no longer a small sample size” territory; Lind is hitting .313 over his last 294 MLB at-bats. Until he starts getting more at-bats against lefties, he’s relegated to platoon status for the Blue Jays. That means a hopeful mark for him this year is 400 at-bats. In this sense, he’s still just an AL-Only option or deep mixers (14 teams minimum, better if it was 16 or more). But keep an eye on him. If he starts to get more ABs against lefties and finds some modicum of success against them – a mid-.700 OPS would be enough for me considering his splits vs. RHP – I would hop on that waiver wire with the speed of a Toronto mayor at the sight of a crack pipe.