The Jays made official this morning what we all knew was going to happen after the results of Adam Lind’s “Mom-RI” revealed that he’d be out six-to-eight weeks with a fractured right foot [Update: Actually, Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets that this afternoon the Jays said that Lind will be in a walking boot for 5-7 days, and back into games in 2-3 weeks. OK!], placing him on the disabled list and recalling Dan Johnson from Buffalo to make his Blue Jays debut (D’ing Bobby Korecky FA in the process to make room on the 40-man).
Fans can probably be forgiven for believing that while Lind has actually not been great over the last few weeks, and Johnson has been crushing at Triple-A, seems almost beside the point given the “no light at the end of the tunnel” sort of situation that the Jays are currently mired in. We all know the litany of troubles: the losses, the wasting of good pitching performances, the coughing up of a late lead on Wednesday to an Albert Pujols home run, Encarnacion and Lawrie and now Lind being on the shelf, Juan Francisco going full pumpkin, Bautista and Reyes hurting and not hitting like their normal selves. A 4.5 game lead in the AL East on June 11th turned into a 3.0 game deficit today.
Shit, the Jays losing Lind didn’t even warrant mention (likely because it was already old news by then, but still!) in Drew’s piece at theScore on MLB’s “Black Thursday,” which saw Masahiro Tanaka, Brandon Phillips, and Yadier Molina all go down.
But it’s not untrue that Lind has hit a pedestrian .275/.333/.377 (98 wRC+) in his last 75 plate appearances, and an awful .174/.174/.261 over his last ten (23 PA, wRC+ of 9). Or that Johnson — a lefty-hitting 1B/DH with some ability to be bad at a few other positions (3B/OF) — has been fantastic in the International League, posting a .248/.402/.471 line (144 wRC+) in 403 plate appearances for Buffalo.
Obviously those numbers won’t translate to the big leagues, but he’s actually been a decent enough big league hitter over 1556 career plate appearances, posting a 101 wRC+ by way of a .236/.337/.411 line. He’s had some short and terrible stints — a .119/.187/.202 line in 91 plate appearances for the Rays in 2011, for example — but some extended good ones, mostly in his early career, and has been an excellent Triple-A hitter over nearly 4000 plate appearances at the level, posting a .283/.403/.513 line.
So, yes, he’s been a journeyman (he took a year off to go to Japan, even) and there maybe isn’t a tonne to dream on for a guy who has been overlooked so many times this season, and had so many chances to establish himself in the big leagues, but he’s hardly nothing, either. He’s an immediate upgrade on what a hobbled Lind was offering, he can take a walk (13.2% walk rate as a big leaguer), some of his big leauge struggles and time spent in the wilderness was due to a hand injury, and he’s even shown enough against same-sided pitching — a .796 OPS against lefties this year in 149 plate appearances, and a couple hollow OBPs above .325 in the previous three seasons in AAA, for whatever that’s worth — to, sadly, probably be an upgrade on some of the bats this club has been running out against lefties of late.
And he’s not short on self belief, either. In an outstanding piece at Bull City Summer, Adam Sobsey writes about Johnson,
Two seasons ago, while he was playing for Charlotte, Johnson told me that he had had interest from National League teams, who wanted to put him on their major-league bench for left-handed platoon and pinch hitting duty. But Johnson turned down the guaranteed major-league salary (half a million dollars), plus pension and union membership. He still believed he could be a big-league regular, and in order to land that full-time job he’d have to play in the American League, which has the designated hitter, the position where Johnson’s skills most comfortably belong (although he’s a better first baseman than his reputation allows.) So he gambled on a much lesser minor-league contract and started the last two seasons in Triple-A, hoping for a crack at the bigger dream.
He also tells us that this season Johnson has adopted a new batting stance this season, more traditional looking than the open stance many fans may remember. It would be a bit of a stretch to think that maybe this will have changed him for the better and for good as he gets set to make his 2014 debut in the majors (he hits 8th tonight in Tampa, the city where he made his most famous baseball moment, a game-tying, two-strike, two-out home run on the epic last day of 2011 that saved the Rays’ season), but one can hope.
Of course, all this doesn’t mean that losing Lind, who currently ranks fourth in MLB among hitters with over 100 PA against right-handers with a 178 wRC+, won’t hurt. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the sort of death blow to the club that the news maybe felt like when it was first learned that yet another of their key bats was leaving the lineup for an extended period. Not that the way they’re teetering they necessarily need a death blow at this point anyway. Ugh.