As we all know, spring is the time of hollow debate and manufactured outrage. Moving Ichiro! out of the leadoff spot? Outrage! Tim Lincecum left a bullpen session early with a stiff back? Outrage! The Jays want to continue hitting Adam Lind cleanup? OUTRAGE!

There probably isn’t enough outrage about the last point. Adam Lind isn’t really a very good hitter. Blue Jays fans love pointing to the hot stretches here and there as proof he can still swing a mean stick but, sadly, that don’t make it so. Career years are allowed and encouraged. They are the exception to the rule, we must remember. One season does not make a new baseline for production.

Since his career year in 2009, Adam Lind owns a .316 wOBA. A below-average 92 OPS+. 250 strikeouts against just 70 walks in nearly 1200 plate appearances. And yet here are the Blue Jays, saying he remains their cleanup hitter. How could this be?

It isn’t as though the Jays don’t have a better option to slide into the spot. Modern baseball orthodoxy suggests hitting your very best & most powerful hitter fourth due to increased opportunities to drive in runs/not hit with two outs and nobody on base.

The entire situation is eerily similar to the conundrum facing the Jays last offseason. The team needed to figure you how best to use Jose Bautista while still getting the most out of former cleanup hitter Vernon Wells.

Via some deft Reaginomics, Wells went to Anaheim while Jose Bautista continued his torrid slugging from the three hole. Wells was (and is) a poor fit in the clean up spot but he’s most comfortable in that slot (or so we’re told.) With Wells breaking records in Los Angeles, the job fell to Lind.

As outlined above, this isn’t ideal for Adam Lind or the Blue Jays. Mostly because Adam Lind isn’t much of a hitter. He offers no protection in the traditional, baloney, sense of the word. He also offers a gigantic waste of Jose Bautista’s on base prowess.

By hitting Jose Bautista third in the order, the Blue Jays ensure one thing: the greatest percentage of his at bats come with two out and nobody on. More than 10% of Bautista’s plate appearances came in that very situation, the most of all possible combinations. Lind, hitting fourth behind Bautista, came to the plate with two outs in the first inning nearly 9.5% of the time. Many times, he did so with Jose Bautista standing on first base or in the dugout after doing Jose Bautista things (Thirty walks and six home runs in 2011 opening frames.)

It isn’t news that Adam Lind is something of a mess, or hurt, or whatever. Inserting him squarely into the center of the lineup is just wasteful, full stop. No matter how many numbers we pour over, nothing is going to jump up and suggest this is a good spot for a hitter who never really walks that much and has occasional “ran into a fastball” power. Full stop.

The team can talk about showing support for Lind and wanting to keep him comfortable (though he expressed his reservations about moving to the cleanup spot ahead of the 2010 season. Now he can’t have it any other way?) If the concern is winning games, moving Lind away from Bautista is the play. Getting Bautista more chances to drive in runs should also be the play.

How can the Jays best maximize the incredible power/patience combination Jose Bautista offers? With two players expected to get on base reasonably well (Escobar & Johnson) hitting one-two, a quick strike power hitter like Edwin Encarnacion might slot nicely into the third spot.

Bautista hits fourth, where innings are extended and/or multi-run homers are jolted. There are R/L concerns at play but, really, this is more about stubbornly keeping Lind locked into the cleanup spot. If Jose wants to stay third (like Pujols, for instance) then fine. Let him do what he wants.

Just let somebody — anybody — else hit after the Jays best hitter. There are too many run-scoring opportunities squandered with a hitter like Lind in the fourth spot. Even when he’s right, he isn’t right for this job.

Comments (37)

  1. What bothers me most about Lind hitting cleanup is that it isn’t even a comfort thing – he used to tell Clarence that he didn’t like being #4. I understand the inclination to be traditional with Bautista 3 and Lind 4 vs. RHP, where Lind has performed okay, but it’s just batshit insane to have the lineup set in stone vs. LHP.

    “There’s just something funky about that four-hole,” Lind said with a nervous laugh recently.

    “He’s just never really hit well in the fourth spot,” Gaston said. “If that’s in his head, then it’s not a good place to put him. We have to find somewhere else to put him.”

    Asked how long he’s had issues as a cleanup hitter, Lind chuckled.
    “Forever,” he replied without hesitation.

    “I went 5-for-5, so it was like, ‘Oh, I guess it’s just something I had to deal with and get over,’” Lind said. “Then, in the next three games, I didn’t get another hit. I don’t know what it is. My whole life, I’ve never had success in the four-hole — I don’t know why. It’s just not a position that I really like.”

    “It really doesn’t matter. I’ll hit anywhere,” said Lind, who then paused and laughed again. “Except the four-hole. I’ll hit fifth. I’ll hit third, second, sixth — it’s really not that big of a deal. There’s just something about that spot in the lineup. I mean, if he puts me in there, I’m not going to complain. I’ll go out there and do my best.

    “There’s just something weird about that spot and I need to get over it.”

  2. Escobar

    That is, of course, assuming Rasmus returns to decent form, and assuming Bautista wants to stay in the three spot (as opposed to batting clean up).

    • I’d go with…

      Escobar, Johnson, Bautista, Rasmus, Lawrie, EE, Lind, JP, LF

      That is against righties only.

      Lind is still a better hitter than JP, and you want to break-up the lefty-lefty combo of Lind and Thames/Snider.

      If Rasmus struggles, swap him with EE.

      When Lind goes on a hot-streak for a couple weeks, move him up in the lineup.

      Against lefties:
      Escobar, Johnson, Bautista, EE (1B), Lawrie, Rasmus, JP, Franscico (DH), Davis (LF)

    • Why would you put Lawrie 4th when the guy hasn’t even had a full season of AB’s. You have to relax buddy and stop getting over anxious.

  3. Give Farrell credit. He is making massive improvements to his managing already.

    He actually has a decent #2 hitter! No more Patterson or Thames batting 2nd in front of Jose. Actually someone who gets on base!

    • So, give Farrell credit for AA getting him better players? Done!

      • Well he could have continued batting Thames 2nd.

      • During the end of last season, I think it was still Thames batting 2nd, and Kelly Johnson was batting 6th.

        But I could be wrong.

        But either way, Farrell could have found someone better to bat 2nd than Patterson or Thames. Heck, EE would have been a better option.

  4. I’d like to see Rasmus batting second.

    • Maybe if he was a better contact hitter….perhaps this may be an option down the road. Too much power to waste in the two hole as well (we hope).

  5. Well said. It would be interesting to see if there would be other candidates that would prosper in that spot more than Lind. As others have said, if he is reluctant to hit there and another player does better in that spot it’s a win win for the Jays. Farrell certainly needs to take a long look at the situation this spring and I am kind of amazed he’s so stubborn in this situation. Have two right handed batters back to back in the 3 and 4 slots wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Look at Boston’s lineup they have double lefties in a couple of spots and it hasn’t hurt them all that much now has it?

    • This isn’t Boston’s lineup. Travis Snider isn’t Carl Crawford, Adam Lind isn’t Adrian Gonzalez, and Rasmus isn’t Ellsbury.

  6. If Lawrie or Rasmus aren’t batting cleanup by June, I might confuse Farrell for Ron Washington.

  7. I hate to say it, but it seems like Adam Lind is slowly evolving into this generation’s Joe Carter: a cleanup hitter with home run power, but who doesn’t draw many walks.

    And much like Cito with Carter, I can’t foresee Farrell moving Lind out of the cleanup spot any time soon. Lindsanity, indeed.

  8. Sure could use a guy like Michael Young who is so valuable because he can hit anywhere in the line-up ;)

  9. We have a real problem with the line-up until someone from the left side steps up their game. Right now, it’s too tempting to bat all our RHB near the top and our LHB near the bottom. We don’t have that ideal LHB power guy behind Bautista.

    So, if not Lind, then who bats clean-up? EE? Then 5th you got to go with Rasmus or Lind anyway until we get to Lawrie.

    Here’s hoping one of Snider/Thames/Lind figure it out this year and has a great full season.

    • Yeah, this is the biggest problem, the LHB all leave something to be desired. My guess is Farrell starts out with Lind in the 4 spot but if he isn’t producing, he’ll get yanked. If Rasmus or one of Snider/Thames is raking, they might get a shot there, maybe EE or Lawrie too if they’re hot at the time.

  10. Here’s the OPS by spots in the batting order for 2011 from Baseball Reference.

    1 – .710
    2 – .747
    3 – 1.014
    4 – .702
    5 – .703
    6 – .665
    7 – .722
    8 – .619
    9 – .675

    Looks like the 2 hole hasn’t been a problem with Thames hitting there for the most part – he had an OPS of .837 batting 2nd, and there certainly are issues with more than the just the clean up spot. Edwin had a .769 OPS hitting 4th and a .775 OPS hitting 5th in 2011.

  11. It could ve been worse…could ve signed Manny…

  12. The problem is that they have very few above-average (and that’s only .320 now) on-base guys. Only Bautista, Escobar and EE last year. You shouldn’t expect Lawrie to be as good as he was last year, and Johnson’s been really up and down with his OBP’s the last few years. Arencibia will be well below average. If Lind or Rasmus rebound to their former (one-time) levels, or Snider finally puts it together for a whole year, then there’s more of a line-up. But it’s unlikely that the Jays end up with more than five above-average hitters in their line-up.

  13. I’m not sure Farrell specifically said that Lind would bat fourth. It seems from all the quotes I can find, he just lists Lind among those players he’d like to have come up to bat with runners on.

  14. The Blue Jays are missing a prototypical leadoff hitter and a prototypical cleanup hitter.

    Its not just a Lind shouldn’t be hitting 4th thing.

    • Yunel Escobar is about as protoypical as you’d like. He’s perfect.

      • Fair point. Escobar did a great job when he was leading off last year, with his good OBP rate and contact rate. I’d just like to see someone who is a better basestealing threat so as to force the defence to protect against the steal and rattle the pitcher.

        My ideal lineup would have Escobar hitting 2nd with a base-stealer leading off. Perhaps we’ll see that next year if Gose is ready for prime time in 2013.

        • Stealing bases in front of Jose Bautista is a very bad idea.

          • Or I should I say attempting to steal bases. It becomes a problem when the play doesn’t work and you’re left with nobody on for Bautista’s power.

      • perfect is Ricky Henderson. Yunel isn’t even close. I’d bat him 4th.

        • As prototypical as you’d like? Sure the on base and average are prototypical but the speed sure isn’t. As prototypical as you’d like would be Escobar’s numbers except with good speed. Not saying I mind him up there but saying that he’s as prototypical as you’d like isn’t right.

  15. At this point, the decision of where to bat anyone in the lineup should be based solely on where Bautista wants to hit. If, for whatever reason, he doesn’t want to hit 4th, he gets his wish.

    Shit, if he says he wants to bat leadoff, FINE. Straw that stirs the drink and all that.

  16. I don’t think we should hate on Lind quite yet. I still classify him as “Good hitter who’s been crappy lately” not “crappy hitter who’s been good a bit.”

    That said, I also don’t think he’s a guy who should be in a position where he’s counted on to be a major run producer….something along the lines of giving him the illusion of lower pressure than an inability to be a “cleanup hitter”.

    …I also believe that of all the players on the team, the one I would like to see evolve into an effective cleanup hitter is Snider.

    • if Snider is a clean-up hitter, Jays fans will be waiting another 20 years for relevancy.

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