Adam Lind played so poorly for so long, and had so many fan circling their calendars for the day his contract would be off the club’s books, that I suspect a whole lot of them have it in their heads, completely unquestioned, that this is his walk year.
No, really. And imagine my shock when, after such a long time of simply assuming that Lind’s dead weight could finally be jettisoned at the end of this season, I made my way to the club’s page on Cot’s Baseball Contracts and re-remembered what the actual terms of his deal are.
Adam Lind OF
4 years/$18M (2010-13), plus 2014-16 club options
- signed extension with Toronto 4/3/10, replacing 1-year, $0.41M deal for 2010
- $0.6M signing bonus
- 10:$0.4M, 11:$5M, 12:$5M, 13:$5M, 14:$7M club option ($2M buyout), 15:$7.5M club option ($1M buyout), 16:$8M club option ($0.5M buyout)
- sent outright to Triple-A by Toronto 5/31/12
- contract purchased by Toronto 6/25/12
That’s right. Lind, whose contract’s vaunted “team friendly” nature I’ve scoffed at for so long around here might still actually turn out to be fucking team friendly.
Yes, it’s dangerous to start making any conclusions at this point in the season. Last season, for example, Kelly Johnson came into June with a wOBA over .340 and then absolutely went into the shitter for four months. And it’s especially dangerous when you’re talking about a guy who’s BABIP (.391) is sitting 92 points above his career norm (.299), and who has, y’know, been awful since the end of 2009. But having already produced a win-and-a-half in value, Lind– at least by FanGraphs’ slightly dubious dollars per WAR calculation– has been worth $7.5-million to the Jays this year.
In other words, more than what they’d have to pay him if they retained him for next year.
Sure, it’s an imperfect way to quantify his value, but the fact of the matter is, Lind has been good enough so far this year that– even with his being shielded from lefties, and even with a whole bunch of regression completely expected– picking up his $7-million option for 2014 genuinely doesn’t sound as completely absurd as it once did.
That amount, while obviously staggering to you and I, is in the same ballpark as the price last winter for the likes of Mark Reynolds, Luke Scott and A.J. Pierzynski, and would– as they’re currently constituted– make Lind just the ninth-highest paid member of the 2014 Jays. (Note: holy shit!)
There is still plenty more data to be accumulated on this new and improved Adam Lind– plenty of time for it to fail, and plenty of time for the club to realize that keeping him may yet be untenable, with Melky Cabrera looking more and more like a future DH each week– but even with the batted ball luck, it genuinely does seem as though the notion that something is different with him isn’t off-base.
Chris Toman wrote about Lind’s new approach back on June 4th at Gamereax, digging into the Pitch F/X data at FanGraphs:
Lind’s swing rate — the total percentage of pitches a batter swings at — is easily at a career-low mark, at 36.7%. Last season it was 44% and in 2011 is was a career high 50.1%. This is the first season that Lind has swung at less than 43% of the pitches he has seen. Not surprisingly, he is swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone, too.
The 29-year-old is swinging at 23% of pitches outside the zone after a mark of 30.4% and 36.4% over the last two years, respectively. For his career, that mark is 32.4%. Lind is doing a better job swinging at pitches he can handle than chasing a pitcher’s pitch.
Eno Sarris of FanGraphs, in the preamble to an illuminating, if somewhat frustrating, chat with Lind, explains that “some of these stats are the first to stabilize — since these are per-pitch stats, we’re talking about a sample size of 760 already.” In the piece, after having some difficulty getting anything too specific and technical from Lind to explain his apparent turnaround, Sarris finally hits on something:
When I asked him if anything was different about his swing itself, Lind did say that he’s “swinging 90%” and trying to “flip it” in play. A career-low swinging strike rate seems to suggest that swinging at less-than-max effort is allowing him to change direction a bit while his bat is in motion. He agreed that he’s less violent, or “under control,” and that maybe that allows him to make more mid-flight adjustments, but mentioned that he still has his swing. Obviously, since he’s still showing some his best power numbers, too.
Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com, possibly in the same scrum in Chicago, gets similar answers from Lind on his strategy versus left-handed pitching, against whom he’s been successful in a tiny sample so far– enough to have John Gibbons reconsidering the way he’s shielded him from them to this point.
“Just not trying too hard,” Lind said when asked of his approach against lefties this year. “Take a nice easy path to the ball and hopefully hit it on the barrel. Hopefully the pitch is over the plate, too, that makes it easier.”
Could it really be something so simple as swinging less and not trying to murder the ball that has unlocked the talent in Lind that has been so absent since his 2009 breakout? Could he actually re-establish himself as a fixture in the Jays’ lineup, with three actually half-decent club options– provided he keeps producing– remaining on his deal?
How the fuck should I know? But it’s an interesting possibility that I sure as shit hadn’t thought much about. And hey, at least we’re no longer hearing constant, insufferable questions about dealing for Justin Morneau, right?