Toronto Blue Jays v Kansas City Royals

The Blue Jays have about two dozen questions to answer this off-season. One of the most disappointing clubs in baseball entered the season with such high hopes, only to see it all crash around them. Their season was effectively finished by Memorial Day (Victoria Day in Canada), no matter how much hope their 11 game win streak gave Jays fans.

There is still plenty of talent around the diamond, as the Jays have good to great players in Colby Rasmus, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista set to return next season. The pitching couldn’t possibly be worse than it’s been this year, so they have that going for them (which is good.) As David Ortiz told the Toronto Star this week “I wouldn’t be surprised if next year they come back and just whoop everybody’s ass, to be honest with you.”

One question must answer starts with their designated hitter and part-time first baseman, Adam Lind. What is to become of the 2009 AL Silver Slugger? The Jays have to ask some tough questions before they ultimately make a decision on his 2014 contract option.

The contract extension Adam Lind signed in April 2010 gave the Jays a ton of flexibility, as it included options for his 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons. The option for his 2014 season is a reasonable one, just $7MM with a $2MM buyout. The buyout is key as it all but ensures the team picks up the option. Finding a player of Adam Lind’s equal would cost more than the $5 million difference between his buyout and salary.

Wait, is that actually true – finding a better player than Lind would cost that much? Just how good is Adam Lind? Or, more to the point, how bad is Adam Lind?

The answer might surprise you as it is pretty much “neither.” Adam Lind is not particularly good but isn’t exactly bad either. Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

Everything about Adam Lind is average. His career wRC+ is 105 (100 is league average), though that includes his breakout season when he posted a 140 wRC+. This season, Lind is swinging it well again, putting up a 120 wRC+ and .351 wOBA. That wOBA ranks him fifth (if you don’t consider Joe Mauer a DH, which you should not) among DHs with 300 PAs this year.

But there is more than this year to consider. The 2012 version of Adam Lind didn’t look so miserable, putting up a .316 wOBA – same as his 2011 campaign. Most of Lind’s 2012 numbers came in a six week spurt in which he posted a .850 OPS before going down with a back injury.

There is also less than this year to consider. Adam Lind was a monster over the first half of the 2013 season but has faltered of late, hitting just .185/.279/.323 since July 1st. So which is the real Adam Lind? Hint: this streaky hitter is the real Adam Lind.

A little device I like to use from time-to-time (ex. Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, and the Pedro Alvarez trilogy 1/2/3) is creating a “rolling 10 day” wOBA for a player using their game logs and Fangraphs Guts for wOBA components. I find it a good way to visualize the peaks and valleys over a given player’s season(s). You don’t have to love/know about/care about wOBA to understand it is a way to measure production. Graphing out this way demonstrates when a player is production compared to when he is not.

What do Adam Lind’s short outpourings of competence over the last two years look like using this method? Just as advertised: peaks and valleys.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The red lines represent league-average wOBA for 2012/2013, though it is worth noting league average for a DH is actually .334 and a first baseman is .333. In both cases, Lind has his moments of above-averagedom but also his weeks mired in the pits of despair. All players will experience slumps and periods when everything clicks. The difference between a good player and an average player is the relative size of each.

Earlier this year, Lind provide some nebulous explanations for his run of good play, from health to a new “90%” swing. But since that interview ran on Fangraphs (mid June) Lind has returned to the same old hitter he always was – his swinging strike rate for the season is back to his career norms. He’s swinging at fewer pitches than last season but missing more. During his recent slump, Lind is swinging and missing a ton and chasing more pitches out of the strike zone.

So which Lind is which? I think the full body of Adam Lind’s work speaks for itself – he is about a league average hitter with some pop. He’s not the worst DH but he’s probably replaceable. But by who and for how much, we must ask?

Kendrys Morales, Justin Morneau, Mike Morse are three names that jump off the Cot’s Contracts potential free agent list, though to consider them upgrades stretches the word a bit.

The slight difference between the buyout price for Lind and the actual salary for the Jays first baseman makes the 2014 decision an easy one. It also makes reducing him to a platoon player (which his .553 OPS all but assures he is) a viable option for the Jays, should they seek out a third 1B/DH type to work with Lind and Encarnacion. Unfortunately, using three players to fill the two spots on your roster with the lowest barrier for entry isn’t a good use of assets.

The decisions get easier for 2015 and 2016 as his base salary grows while the buyout amounts shrink. The book on Adam Lind isn’t going to change – he can get red hot and look the part of a world-beater then cool down and create a black hole in the lineup for weeks at a time. The end results are fine, but are they good enough for a team desperate to get something out of their biggest payroll commitment in two decades?

Information from Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and ESPN Stats & Info

Comments (23)

  1. It is going to be interesting to see what they do with him. If they buy him out the only substitute I can see is if they add Morales. Anything less and I would just keep him.

    • Or get another LF and use Melky at DH

      • True that works too. I forgot about him since he is on the DL again.

      • Melky’s a solid fielder when healthy no?

        • -21 runs below average when he was playing CF for the Royals a couple years ago…so no, not really.

        • But do you want to go into another season assuming he’s healthy? He was so brutal this year that moving him to DH oes seem prudent. But of course, if he’s not healthy enough to field, would he be healthy enough to hit? A no bat DH isn’t any better than a no glove, no bat LF unless you consider that a kind of addition by substraction. The Jays need to make a better assessment of what Melky can provide in 2014 than they did of what he could provide in 201.? That could mean you keep him in LF. That could mean you slide him to DH. That could mean you swallow your pride and eat the contract. That’s really the first question to answer before you look at the rest of the lineup.

          • Melky as the DH makes you more versatile, like the rays.
            you can move guys around and give people days off without changing your 25 man every day.

  2. Hey Eric Hinske, how ya been?

  3. I really think Morales is an upgrade slightly in terms of production, but more importantly because he has fairly even splits and is a switch hitter. This would allow you to run him out there every day and use the extra spot on someone else.

    Lind is adequate against RHP but lost against LHP.

    Morales will cost more than $5M, but I would spend more to say goodbye to Lind

  4. I think his stats against RHP is good enough that you can use him as the primary DH against righties, but make sure you have somewhat of a lefty masher on the bench to start against lefties. That way you don’t need a full-fledged platoon partner for him, as long as you’ve got the right bench player.

    I think it’s a fairly simple problem to solve (says the relatively uninformed bystander…), as long as we pick up Derosa’s option next year. Even streaky Lind is quite good against RHP, and hopefully Derosa can continue to hit well against lefties next year.

    • I’d like to see Rajai Davis on the roster next year. Hits lefties, runs like fuck.

      • If Gibby goes back to a strict platoon with one of Davis/DeRosa, they can manage that. Those guys wouldn’t just be a right handed DH/1B, they have other uses.

    • I don’t think this is a tough decision at all. Pick up Lind’s option, use him primarily as a DH against RHP, let DeRosa take care of LHP (would also be fine with Davis as 4th OF/LHP DH) and move on to finding a 2B, C and some starting pitching.

      • Yup. This seems to solve most of the problems. We get solid contribution from DH (Lind and Derosa platoon), still get Derosa as a solid bench option for most games, and have money leftover to deal with harder to solve problems (catcher, 2nd, and pitching).

  5. bring up rusty! … did we sign rusty?

  6. How about Carlos Beltran? He would be a considerable upgrade on Lind. Plus we don’t need to buyout Lind to get rid of him. There probably would be another team out there willing to take the $7 million dollar 1st baseman off our hands.

    To expect Lind to repeat this season is a bit of a pipe dream in my mind. 2009 is now 5 years ago. If we can’t get more than 25 HR out of a DH in the american league east division’s tiny ball parks, there is a problem.

  7. Carlos Beltran already opted not to come here once per AA.

  8. Forget DH. They need pitching.

  9. Suggesting that the 2014 option “only costs $5MM” is a little bit wrong. You subtracted the 2014 buyout from the cost of the option, but you neglected to add back the $1MM 2015 buyout that they’d have to pay. So it “only costs $6MM.”

  10. Ugh, if they let Adam Lind go, he’s going to sign a cheap contract with Tampa Bay and kill the Jays.

  11. The Babip gods were drunk when Lind performed for two months this year.

    He’s way too cold between bouts of luck and the LHP thing is just not going to change.

    That said, and as you mentioned, the contract is decent for next year. Flip him in the off season for an asset.

    Take the money saved and go after a more consistent/better hitter.

    That player is Nelson Cruz.

    The DR/BioG thing/ Melky was ok here/Texas got Rios dynamic will make Cruz more attractive in both money and years.

    Money in the bank pitching will be difficult/expensive to acquire, so the Jays are better off to jack the offence.

    Put Melky in a position to succeed at DH and improve the defence in LF with Cruz (compared to gimpy Melky).

    This way a good offence has a better shot at being a great one.

    Plenty of ceiling/depth/past performance with the pitching to just try again.

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