Why Isn’t Adam Lind Better?

With 35 home runs in his first full season of Major League Baseball, Adam Lind finished the 2009 season on top of the world. At 25 years old, he was putting up Alex Rodriguez type numbers, getting on base and slugging with equal aplomb.

After signing away his final year of league minimum salary and three years of arbitration with a four year $18 million contract extension at the beginning of the 2010 season, Lind had his worst season as a professional baseball player, producing outs in 71.3% of his plate appearances. Perhaps most appalling were his league worst numbers against left handed pitching, including a horrendous .341 OPS and a .156 wOBA.

It wasn’t pretty, but after returning from a May injury with a dominant June this season, it appeared as though Lind’s 2010 was an outlier and the 2009 year of dominance was a better measure of his actual talent than his more recent struggles. Then July and August happened, and the Lind of 2010 made an unwelcome return.

Since the beginning of July, Lind has gotten out in more than 76% of his plate appearances. Over the 110 times he stepped into the batter’s box during the month of August, he collected only a single walk. That’s awful. Even Vladimir Guerrero had a better walk rate last month than Lind.

This is what appears to be the major difference between Good Lind and Bad Lind: one takes pitches, the other doesn’t. We can compare his annually increasing swing rate over the last three years:

  • 2009 – 43.8%
  • 2010 – 50.0%
  • 2011 – 51.3%

However, most damning is the decreasing number of pitches he’s seeing in every plate appearance:

  • 2009 – 4.03 pitches per PA
  • 2010 – 3.81 pitches per PA
  • 2011 – 3.51 pitches per PA

In contrast, we’ve praised Brett Lawrie’s exhibition of confidence and patience at the plate during his short stint at the Major League level, not only laying off bad pitches, but also pitches in the strike zone that he can’t make optimal contact on, which is evidenced by the 4.25 pitches he’s seeing in every plate appearance.

As would be expected, after the 2009 season, pitchers began approaching Lind differently. In his successful first full season, four seam fastballs comprised 51.7% of the pitches that he saw. In 2010, that number dropped to 42.2%, and this season it’s fallen all the way to 37.9%.

We often write, somewhat abstractly, about successful hitters adjusting their approach at the plate to meet new challenges. There are few better examples than Jose Bautista who began this season seeing far fewer fastballs than he did during his break out year. Instead of flailing away, he exhibited an increased ability to drive change ups for home runs.

Lind, on the other hand has not adjusted. Over the last three seasons, the most often used breaking pitch against Lind has been the slider, which from left handed pitchers has been especially cruel to the Blue Jays first baseman. Let’s take a look at the overall use of the slider against Lind and how he’s responded each season:

  • 2009 – 13.9% of the pitches he sees, 50.1% swing rate, 12.2% whiff rate.
  • 2010 – 12.9% of the pitches he sees, 57.3% swing rate, 17.3% whiff rate.
  • 2011 – 15.5% of the pitches he sees, 62.5% swing rate, 18.0% whiff rate.

Lind is seeing less fastballs and more breaking pitches, but swinging even more. That’s a recipe for disaster. However, we saw a glimmer of hope for one month of this season, and even though sliders accounted for 17.8% of the pitches he saw in June, his swing rate was 10% lower than the rest of the season on his Achilles pitch. It’s no coincidence that Lind’s most successful month came during the same 30 day period in which he saw the most pitches.

The timing of Blue Jays manager John Farrell’s recent comments in favour of grinding out at bats until longer games are the norm in combination with a certain addition to the coaching staff shouldn’t be lost on fans.

The free swinging approach of the Blue Jays isn’t working and a team on base percentage of .317 won’t do. The struggling Lind has been the biggest culprit when it comes to a lack of quality at bats, and it’s made all the more maddening by seeing what the player is capable of when he’s not wasting his swings on bad pitches. I think Triple A hitting coach Chad Mottola spending the final month of the season with the big club is a sign of the direction that this team will be taking in the future.

After all, I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed that Las Vegas led the Pacific Coast League in on base percentage this year.

With rumblings of potential interest in Prince Fielder, Lind’s future on the team may be in question this coming off season. While two years of reckless swinging and bad results don’t speak much in his favour, every once in a while we see how hard he’s capable of turning on a fastball. However, Lind does himself no favours by swinging at breaking pitches he can’t make good contact on. In order to find success, Lind must go deeper into counts and force the pitcher to use a fastball to make a strike. A change in hitting coaches could stand to benefit him more than any other player in the Blue Jays lineup.

Comments (20)

  1. It has gotten a little ugly lately…soft in, hard away….take a seat Adam Lind seems to be the typical at-bat.

  2. Really happy about Mottola getting the call up to the big leagues.

    Murphy/Cito’s approach did wonders for Bautista, but it’s obviously not something that works for every player. Let’s hope Mottola can help out Lind.

  3. I have always hoped that Lind would get better, but I fear that the team may be better off by moving him and getting Fielder. The AL east is the place where at bats need to be fought through and “grinded out” , and Lind doesn’t do that. Lawrie looks better in the box than Lind, and he has been at it for less time. I say move him and keep Snider instead.

  4. Speaking of Lawrie, how about a piece on how ridiculous it is that he didn’t win the rookie of the month award for August?

  5. Lind has a career .619 OPS vs. LHP. He can’t hit lefties and it’s about time that the team stops using him as if he can.

    If he’s going to be on the team next year, you’d have to hope it would be as a platoon player.

  6. Las Vegas is actually second at the moment in OBP, and only fifth in walks taken. I don’t dispute that this month gives Farrell a good chance to get to know him. And I don’t dispute that Murphy’s approach isn’t working. But are we convinced that Mottola is truly a wizard at getting batters to see more pitches?

  7. lind + EE platoon next year?

    Alternately, i’d be looking at oakland or seattle or any other power starved team to see if there is a trade fit.

  8. Awesome article

  9. As well as not seeing a lot of pitches, he has also encountered worse luck and his slump has carried on (could be because he’s swinging at worse pitches) but still

    BABIP (LD%) by month

    .291 (25.6%)
    .500 (26.3%) (6 games)
    .306 (18.3%)
    .238 (22.9%)
    .200 (25.5%)

    his GB%’s aren’t bad either, so those numbers are actually pretty encouraging

    • BABIP when applied to a hitter doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as when it’s applied to a pitcher. It’s not just a matter of luck.

      • which is why I put his LD % in brackets, those numbers can’t be overlooked.

        • Tie it together for me. What are you suggesting?

          • if his LD% dips a long with his BABip, then yes of course, it doesn’t mean luck (or bad luck) had anything to do with it..

            Point and Case, Aaron Hill

            However, if his LD% remains at norms (which it is) and his BABip still dips considerably, there is a luck aspect to it.. He continued to hit the ball sharply, at times it was just at people though.

            I’m not arguing against your point, merely adding another element to why isn’t lind better.

  10. It sounds mean and weird, but I think that a lot of Adam Lind’s problem is that he’s really, really dumb and doesn’t realize how poorly he’s doing. He’s even said he had a decent year in 2010 because he had a good number of RBI and home runs.

    • It’s true thought, just watch his interviews on TV, the guy is more then a few cards short. He’s mentally unstable, that’s why I fear he will never get better. The way he chases breaking balls from lefty’s is disturbing.

  11. He needs more fastballs, eh? Would it be crazy to put him in the #2 hole in front of Joey Bats for a few games?

  12. On top of terrible numbers and swinging at bad pitches – you can tell optically that Adam Lind is all kinds of effed up right now. He takes fastball for the first strike then misses 2 in the dirt sliders by 4 feet and sits down. Its happened so many times this year its criminal. He misses sliders on swings that wouldn’t put a ball past the pitcher even if he wasn’t three feet off of the ball. His huge stride forward and epically long swing leave him no opportunity to actually adjust to pitches. He also stands so far back in the box that I’d be surprised if he could actually hit anything on the far side of the plate. Unless a pitcher makes a mistake and gives him an inside, belt high fastball he can’t do anything with it.

  13. I’m probably in the minority here and I know the new stats are the new thing, but I had to look up wOBA – which is simply defined as:

    wOBA = ((0.72xNIBB)+(0.75*HBP)+(0.90*1B)+(0.92*RBOE)+(1.24*2B)+(1.56*3B)+(1.95*HR))/PA…

    …I dunno… maybe just a little context when throwing the new stats around… i.e. Pujols of 2009 had an wOBA of .458 to lead the league… Lind’s wOBA is 150 points lower than the league average… maybe a SABR dictionary sidebar..?

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