Almost everyone who has talked about the Jays recently seems to mention the fact that they fully expect both Aaron Hill and Adam Lind to have a big second half to the season even after their tremendous struggles so far. Their confidence in the 2 players turning things around comes from the fact that both have shown the ceilings they can reach and both have the skill sets to attain those in any given season.
Here’s the problem to that theory – instead of warming up slightly or at the very least maintaining the low level of play Adam Lind has attained this season, his stats are getting even worse and he is clearly losing his focus and confidence.
Over his last 10 games, Adam Lind sports a .135 average, has 1 HR (none in last 9 games), has struck out 13 times in 37 AB (35% SO rate), only walked 4 times, scored 2 runs and drove in only 5 despite hitting 3rd in the lineup. His OBP for the year is now .278 and his slugging percentage is .361 – by far the lowest of any 3rd hitter in MLB. He doesn’t run the bases well, doesn’t play D, and isn’t hitting, so what exactly is his role with the Jays right now? He’s playing at half the level Randy Ruiz was giving the Jays, and Ruiz left for Japan after being released by the Jays, so what does that tell us? It tells us that something needs to change, and it starts with the lineup.
Prior to the season starting, Adam mentioned the fact that he didn’t feel comfortable hitting cleanup despite his powerful display in 2009. That, my friends, is very telling of the faith Adam has in his abilities and is indicative of the problems he is having this season. His 2009 season came at a time when there was no pressure at all for him to perform. He was easy going, the focus was more on guys like Scott Rolen and Vernon Wells, and he got to go up there and put in an easy swing. The 2010 season tells a different tale. Every MLB team focused their efforts on drawing up the scouting book on Adam Lind and perhaps he knew this would happen, which is why he asked to not hit cleanup. Therein lies the problem, instead of putting Adam in the 5th hole, lowering the pressure on his bat, Cito has had him in the 3 hole all season long.
I watched how teams pitch to Adam and how he swings over the course of the last 2 weeks and here’s a play by play.
- Adam rarely ever swings on the 1st pitch, so pitchers usually throw it right down the middle and he watches it come down without even the inkling of swinging – 0 and 1.
- The second pitch is usually an inside breaking ball that Adam can’t lay off of. He usually swings through it or hits a foul ball. 0 and 2.
- From here on out they either go back inside again, or most of the time they go away with a slider or curve that gets him out either by weak hit or swing and miss – these days it’s usually swing and miss. SO
- If he does survive longer into the AB, he’s still always working from a bad count.
Why doesn’t Adam notice the pattern, and why doesn’t he adjust? I’m not sure, as someone in that clubhouse has to notice what I’ve noticed. When you compare Jose Bautista to Adam, you see a completely different story. He jumps on pitches early because he knows pitchers like to work with favorable counts, and he trusts the fact that he’ll be able to fight off some pitches if the count does begin at 0-2 in order to get it back in his favor. Once it is back into his favor, Jose waits for a pitch he likes and hammers it. Adam, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to trust himself to fight off any pitches, which in turn makes him sit and wait for the pitch he likes – which he may never get because the count is always in the pitcher’s favor. It’s a catch 22.
So if you’re Cito Gaston, what do you do? I say that the Jays have to move Adam down in the order for short while. As they did with Lyle Overbay, keeping him in the lineup is crucial to curing the problems, so taking him out doesn’t seem right. But leaving him in the 3 hole isn’t right either. Putting him 5th or 6th will give him a change of scenery, can let him see more pitches from the pitcher from the bench, and he can find his swing again – hopefully.
If Adam does not find himself again during the 2010 season, the Jays will be forced to make some really tough decisions. Adam isn’t athletic enough to make due with defensive skills and if he’s not hitting, he’s not an ideal DH candidate. Perhaps they would include him in a trade during the off season, but can they afford to wait until then when his value will have plummeted? If they trade him now, most teams will have the same frame of mind as all of those analysts, who I stated above as having faith in Adam and Aaron Hill to turn their seasons around, and will be more likely to pay a hefty price for Adam’s services. And believe it or not, Adam is replaceable in this lineup. I am, however, a huge Adam Lind fan and would rather see the Jays find a way to make the proper adjustments to his approach at the plate. I’m just skeptical that it will ever happen successfully. Teams have drawn up a very good way to get Adam out and I’m just not sure he can ever lay off the inside breaking balls and slider away enough to be anything more than a #6 or #7 hitter, not exactly DH material.
I don’t envy Cito or the Jays in this situation. They need Adam to succeed in order to be successful in 2010 and beyond and have a huge asset in his bat. They’re just not getting anything out of that asset right now or for the foreseeable future. I’m truly hoping Adam proves me wrong and begins to light up all pitchers with a change in strategy at the plate, because if he does he will be much more successful and could return to his 2009 form.
It’s a wait and see game now. Hopefully the Jays can make the right decision(s).