When the Blue Jays had concluded their off-season acquisitions this year, the finished lineup card looked very promising. It looked balanced; speed at the top and bottom, power in the middle and the rest near the end. The biggest hole seemed to be Adam Lind taking up either a 1B or DH spot, seeing as many had given up hope on him ever returning to a 2009-like career.
However, after almost a third of the regular season complete as we reach near the end of May, Adam Lind has become somewhat of a savior to the middle of the Blue Jays batting order. Entering today’s game, he’s been sporting a .304/.401/.496 slash line with a .384 wOBA, 141 wRC+ and 20 runs over 137 plate appearances. For a man who, outside of his 2009 season, is a 0 fWAR player, just how did he regain his offensive prowess?
VERY Limited Playing Time Against Lefty Pitching
Like many left handed bats, Adam Lind has very little success hitting against left handed pitching. But what separates Lind from the rest of the pack is just how awful he is. Out of all 247 batters in the majors with at least 500 PA against left handed pitching since 2007 (Adam Lind’s first real season in the majors), he ranks dead last in BB/K rate, 3rd worst in wRC+, 4th worst in wOBA, 5th worst in OPS, 6th worst in Batting Average, 11th worst in BB% and 19th worst in K%.
It’s a poor performance like so that has lead to current Blue Jays manager John Gibbons removing Lind from the lineup against almost all games with left handed starters. In fact, through 51 Blue Jays games, Adam Lind has only had 6 PA against left handed pitching this season. Hopefully Gibbons is fully aware of this situation and stays true to the game plan he’s been using early on this season.
Unprecedented Ability To Take A Walk
Adam Lind has always had an average OBP throughout his career. So far this season, however, it’s hovering around .400. While some of the credit goes to having a high batting average, Lind has also sported a 14.6 BB%, more than double his career average of 7.1%. But just how did he accomplish this feat?
For whatever reason, he’s had excellent plate coverage this year. He’s only swung at 21.7% at pitches outside the zone this year, which is down from his career average of 32.5% and this year’s MLB average of 29%. This results in fewer times he’s reached for the ball out of the zone, leading to more balls in the count, leading to more walks. In addition, he’s seen in 46.9% of strikes within the zone without a swing (MLB average is 49.2%) and has a swinging strike % of only 5.7% (MLB average is 9.2%). Fewer strikes mean fewer opportunities for striking out and better counts in which to either work a walk or a hit.
Hitting The Ball Well
The best way to produce as a ball player is to put the ball in play and hope good things happen. Adam Lind has done that particularly well this season, especially when it comes to contact. He’s made contact on 9.9% more pitches outside of the strike zone and 5.1% more total pitches than the MLB average. While a batter who usually takes more walks and is selective with their pitches does so at the price of power, his slugging is the highest its been since 2009 at .496 and his ISO (SLG% minus BA) is at .191. His stats make him seem like a Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion type of hitter at the moment (in terms of OPS, not HR ability).
Can It Last A Full Season?
Adam Lind got off to a cold start. Not even a month ago back on May 2nd, Adam Lind’s slash line was .220/.394/.280 with a .674 OPS. While his ability to take walks was there, he had not been able to effectively hit for power. From then until now, his slash line has been .371/.403/.661 with a 1.067 OPS and a .442 BABIP. Unless Lind has the equivalent of a Stan Musial season, I just don’t see him maintaining his performance so far for an entire year, especially when he’s been sheltered from the storm that is left-handed pitching. What is likely to happen is we’ll see Lind’s ability to take a walk drop down closer to career norms, while the power numbers meet somewhere in between his hot and cool streaks.
Since May 4, the Blue Jays have gone 12-8 and are working their way back to .500, in no short part due to Lind’s success. While it may not be forever, enjoy it while it lasts.