Baltimore Orioles v Minnesota Twins

It is hard to let go of the past. With baseball players specifically, the past does not always inform the future as much as we’d like. It becomes harder and harder for a once-great player to recover the form which made him great in the first place as he ages. Add injuries to the mix and a former MVP turns into a role player in just a few years.

If you needed to choose between the careers of Justin Morneau or Adam Lind, you would pick Justin Morneau every single time. Morneau is more decorated, played longer, made more money and simply has a better career to date.

Career is one thing, the future is another. While Adam Lind is less than an ideal fit for the left-handed side of the Jays DH/1B rotation this year. Realistically speaking, he isn’t that much worse an option than the big Canadian currently playing out the final year of his contract for the Twins, despite Morneau’s recent overtures.

Justin Morneau has not been the same player since he suffered a concussion midway through the 2010 season. At the time of his injury, Morneau was raking, owning a .448 wOBA and 5 fWAR just 81 games into the year. It was a real shame that he went down when he did.

The Justin Morneau who returned to play just 69 games for the 2011 Morneau was not the same player. Battling a variety of injuries and post-concussion symptoms, Morneau understandably struggled in 2011. Morneau bounced back to produce closer to his career norms with the Twins last season but he remains a shadow of his former self.

At this point, there isn’t much to chose from between Morneau and Adam Lind. Over the last two seasons, they own practically identical offensive numbers.

  • Morneau: 895 PA, .254/.317/.403, 23 HR, 95 wRC+
  • Lind: 858 PA, .252/.303/.429, 37 HR, 96 wRC+

Basically the same guy! Hard to believe the former MVP fell so far – though he had some unwitting help. The injuries loom as large as his considerable ability when looking at Morneau in the future. He simply isn’t the same player as the man who lay waste to the AL in 2010.

Would the Jays want to pay for the privilege of having Morneau rather than Lind in their mix? The salaries are not comparable, as Morneau will earn $14MM this season while Lind is owned $5MM for 2013 and $24.5MM worth of option for the next three seasons, all of which can be bought out for $3.5MM.

For the money, why not go with Lind? Not only is he cheaper, he is also younger (entering his age 29 season compared to the 32-year-old Canadian.) The projection systems have long memories, favoring Morneau in 2013 but a slim margin.

PECOTA and its long memory prefers the Twins first baseman by a clear margin, as his .273/.352/.460 slash line with 20 projected home runs is much nicer than the .265/.321/.456 line with 18 home runs for Lind. More than numbers, PECOTA projects the probability of breakout and collapse for a given player. Morneau is the better bet to match the modest projections, as Adam Lind has a 10% chance of total collapse.

ZiPS, Oliver, and Steamer don’t offer much rosier pictures of these players futures, offering strikingly similar outputs for the two hitters with similar platoon issues. Morneau, projecting .329, .332 and .338, wOBAs respectively. For Lind? .329, .325, and .332. Not much to choose from for either player, and really anything to get excited about for a first baseman/designated hitter.

Simply put: Justin Morneau was a better player but he won’t automatically be the better player going forward. Adam Lind is cheaper and young, which pretty much sums up his qualifications compared to the more injury prone former MVP. The Jays, if they are hoping to upgrade the left-handed side of their DH/1B job, need to look a little harder than Justin Morneau. Fun as it might be to have the big Canadian in the mix, they can simply do better.

Comments (27)

  1. bang on drew totally agree

  2. I was at the game at in Toronto when Morneau got the concussion. Still can’t believe that was the end of his time as an elite player

  3. I can hardly hold back the tears.

  4. Try As You Might?

  5. Both players are platoon guys used against righties. Morneau is much better in that role, but your’re obviously not going to pay him that much money.

  6. What would the jays do if Lind actually hits this year? I know it’s crazy lofty but AA extended EE after a good year, he would have to at least pick up one of the options

  7. I think it’s a little disingenuine to include half a year of Morneau’s 2011 when it was patently obvious he was still recovering from concussion and other injuries.

    Either compare their 2012 seasons full stop or alter the conclusion of your 2 yr analysis to state that 2 yrs of Lind and and 1 and 1/2 yrs of a concussed Morneau are virtually indistinguishable.

    Using skewed stats to buttress a previously held belief is beneath you drew. You are better than that!

    • I don’t think there was any of that kind of sample size theatre at play here. While he was awful in 2011, he wasn’t that much better in 2012. The point of the post and the arbitrary endpoint I selected (the beginning of the season) was to show that he isn’t the same player after the injury. Period.

      The time he spent recovering and battling other injuries counts. We can’t assume he’ll be back good as new in 2013 without considering the affects he showed in 2011.

      I appreciate that you are trying to give me the benefit of the doubt but I promise I didn’t pick a date at random to prove my point. Beginning/ending of seasons that coincide with the return from a long layoff aren’t exactly SSS trickery.

  8. Please dont interpret my issues with your analysis to mean I am for the Jays going after Morneau to replace Lind.

  9. i’d prefer to compare peaks. Lind had one great season out of six, is 3 years removed from it, and there’s no good reason for his decline.

    Morneau had a ridiculous 5-yr stretch of sustained awesomeness, then got a concussion.

    To me, it’s a much safer bet that he gets back to form (even at 32, we’ve seen lots of sluggers hit well into their late 30s) than Lind recaptures the magic of 2009.

  10. Yeah, I wouldn’t be selling what’s left of the farm for Morneau, but put both players in a vacuum (discard salary and what you’d have to cough up to get him) and I’d take Morneau over Lind for shizzles, I don’t gives no fucks.

  11. I have no problem with a Lind platoon being the weak link in our offense, but I’m pretty sick of reading defenses of him (even these roundabout ones) when he’s been absolutely awful for 3 whole seasons without an injury excuse to fall back on.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that 2011 was a write off for Morneau so I’d only be comparing their 2012s, and what I see is that Morneau comfortably outhit Lind. When I dig deeper I see that Morneau crushed righties and was terrible against lefties, so if you were using your DH spot correctly and not sending out either Morneau or Lind it’s pretty clear who you want to be sending to the plate.

    You also didn’t mention park factors, an important thing considering Morneau’s OPS was 100 points higher on the road than at home in 2012 while Lind experienced the reverse with his OPS 100 points higher at the Dome.

    • wRC+ factors in home park.

      Maybe you’re right and I’m wrong, but does somebody want to explain that to ZiPS, Steamer, Oliver, and PECOTA? They see them as very similar players as well, and they don’t play the arbitrary endpoints game as I’m accused of here.

      • With all due respect Drew, NYJ has it right here.

        For starters, Morneau ALWAYS crushes RHP other than 2011 when he was quite clearly not himself. And recovering from a serious injury is a valid explainer, in my opinion.

        In 2012, Morneau hit 290/371/531 against RHP

        In 2012, Lind hit 276/339/457 against RHP

        As for their records against LHP, Lind was passable in 2009 and has been terrible every other year. Morneau, on the other hand, has had some very good performances against LHP.

        Going forward, Morneau looks to clearly be the better option against RHP. And he also looks like he at least has a chance to be good or better against LHP. Lind doing anything against LHP at this point would be a complete miracle.

        I don’t know how the projection systems came to their conclusions. But I just don’t see how anyone can break down the respective stats of Lind and Morneau and consider them to be in the same ballpark.

        Espescially since fully recovering from a concussion is a legitimate explainer. Whereas Lind’s conditioning issues have to be considered a poor excuse at this point.

        • “Morneau, on the other hand, has had some very good performances against LHP.”

          Nope, not since his injury.

          In 2011, Morneau’s wOBA against LHP was .184, and his wRC+ was 7 (that’s not a typo).
          In 2012, Morneau’s wOBA against LHP was .252, and his wRC+ was 55.

          For the sake of completeness, here are Lind’s numbers: 2011: .281, 72, 2012: .245, 48 (and I’ll give you 2010 as well, since it followed Lind’s one good season: .157, -15 (also not a typo)).

          So while Morneau can be shown to be better than Lind against LHP since his injury, he’s not a lot better, should not be paid double what Lind is, and is going to be considerably worse than ANYBODY who the Jays reasonably decide to use as the other half of that platoon.

          To wit, here are Mark DeRosa’s (easily the 25th man on the roster, and truly belonging in the retirement lists) wOBA and wRC+ against LHP for the last few years:

          2009: .392, 141
          2010: .377, 138
          2011: .315, 101
          2012: .295, 95

          Even considering some age-based regression, we can reasonably assume that the weakest player on the roster is likely going to outperform both the 5MM Lind and the 18MM Morneau this year against LHP.

          No platoon player should cost 18MM.

          • Did I say “since the injury”?

            Yes, Morneau has been terrible vs LHP since the injury. But he has had some good years prior to his injury which is obviously what I am talking about.

            Can he get back to that the further removed he becomes from the concussion? Who knows.

            Lind has to be platooned and he is not even that great against RHP. Other than 2009.

            Morneau should be given some rope against LHP considering his entire history. He probably needs to be selectively platooned at the least, though.

    • Didn’t Lind have a solid second half of 2012? And he dealt with some back issues during the times his numbers were off. If Lind can get his back straightened out, I wouldn’t put it past him to bring his production back up towards where we’ve seen it before. Fingers crossed!

  12. “The Jays, if they are hoping to upgrade the left-handed side of their DH/1B job, need to look a little harder than Justin Morneau. Fun as it might be to have the big Canadian in the mix, they can simply do better.”

    Now, I’d argue that the Jays don’t have much in terms of trade chips to land any big potential 1B bats that may hit the trade market in the next year, which leaves them looking at free agent options next winter. Per the free agent list MLBTR, here’s the notable names:

    1) Corey Hart
    2) Mike Napoli
    3) Paul Konerko
    4) Kendrys Morales
    5) Justin Morneau
    6) Mike Morse
    7) Kevin Youkilis
    8) Lance Berkman

    Corey Hart is probably the best option on this list. Afterwards, are any of these players much better options than Morneau? Konerko and Berkman are old, retirement candidates. Youkilis seems to be in the midst of serious decline. Then you have guys like Napoli, Morneau, Morales and Morse – all over 30, all pretty similar players, and likely the list the Jays will be choosing from next year.

    So besides Hart, who exactly is the better option the Jays will have available?

    Similar options, sure. But if you’re looking at a bunch of similar options, the one with some possible extra interest in playing here (and the lefty bat the Jays might feel inclined to add to their lineup) might make some sense.

    • Corey Hart might be the best backup option to Morneau in Canadians’ minds, just due to the name only.

  13. Reading between the lines. Your whole point is that Morneau isn’t the answer for replacing Lind at DH right?

  14. I think it’s a little early to assume Morneau is more or less done as a productive hitter. I would wager Morneau has a better season than Lind in 2013.

  15. Statistical models don’t do overly well with human frailty. Justin Morneau was injured in 2011. It seemed like there wasn’t an injury he didn’t have that year. If you want to judge Morneau on 2011, you have to be willing to judge Bautista on 2012. Playing healthy for the first time in almost two years in 2012, he started slow (trying to do too much: high slugging, low on base) but was actually much closer to his old self by the end of the year. After July 1 was .290/.353/.438.

    Is he going to be the 2010 first half Morneau again? Maybe not. Certainly, the power numbers aren’t going to be as good in a cavernous ballpark like Target Field as they were in the Metrodome. I’d still take him over Lind any day of the week.

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