Monday, November 29, 2010

Another sleepless night over Adam Lind

We tossed and turned last night.

Maybe it was the 1-2-3 combo of Boardwalk Empire/Dexter/The Walking Dead that left us feeling uneasy and frightened. Or maybe it was the rampant snacking throughout our TV marathon (Sour jubes! Pretzels! Giant sugary Rockets treats!) that left us in a state. In all likelihood, it had a lot to do with the missus rolling and poking me to try to get my snoring to a somewhat more tolerable level.

But in the middle of the darkness, we rolled over, opened our eyes and thought: "What if Adam Lind sucks this year?"

It's a question that you could ask of any player, really, but we spent a good part of the season figuring that Lind was on the cusp of breaking out of his funk. And occasionally, he'd fool us with a great at bat in a key situation, and we'd think "Hey! It's all gonna be all right. Pass the sour jubes!"

Maybe we should be more concerned about Aaron Hill, who turned into an old man about 47 seconds into last season. But we figure that the best case with Hill is that he was injured and comes back healthy, and the worst case is that he's ground down and this is now what he is, and you cut ties with him and go find yourself another middle infielder. (For some reason, this seems easy to us right now.)

But taking a quiet moment to think on the absolute lunacy of Adam Lind's splits versus lefties kinda crushes our spirits. It's hard to surmount. And it's hard to imagine it suddenly turning around to anything respectable.

Send in a lefty against Lind, and his walk rate drops in half (3.4% versus 7.1%), his strikeout rate nearly doubles (38% versus 21%). Suddenly he turns into a rookie ball scrub in way over his head. A .159 OBP, and a .182 SLG, which adds up to a .341 OPS, which leads us to only somewhat facetiously wonder why the Jays didn't just let Johnny Mac get the DH reps versus lefties.

(Versus lefties, McDonald posted a .743 OPS, and hit two homers. Which is the same number as Lind managed against lefties. His ISO number was .225, versus Lind's .066. So yeah, the PMoD is pretty much twice the offensive player that Lind is in those situations.)

The easy answer here, we suppose, is to just accept that Lind is a platoon guy who shouldn't see at bats against southpaws. But that sort of usage pattern is not why you extend the contract of a player like Lind, nor do look to make him a part of your long term plan. And you probably don't set forth on a project to integrate Lind and his happy feet into a regular role in your infield defense if the return on that investment is offensive numbers versus lefties that would make Yuniesky Betancourt blanche.

(Betancourt put up a .778 OPS versus LHPs last year. In case you weren't wondering.)

We're generally a pretty optimistic dude, and we don't like to be the harbinger of doom when talking about Toronto athletes, because that territory is very well-covered already. We don't feel the need to add to the cacophony of naysaying. But sometimes, when you really start to look at the negative evidence that you're sloughing off, it can yank the lollypops right out of your mouth and cloud over your sunny skies.

And it can make you wonder if this team can really put themselves over the top over the next few years with that sort of a hole in their roster.


Navin said...

Lind will be fine next season. Back to form. Someone else will suck. (Hopefully not Bautista.) So it goes.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Lind had a .780 OPS against lefties in 2009. If he can just get back to that, he'd be a wonderful player again. His 2010 sure is baffling. But it can be fixed. Look what the Yankees did with Curtis Granderson last year.

All you can do is hope that 2010 was a blip in his career and that he can beck to where he was in 2009. If he has a second year like 2010 in 2011, then it seems you have to pull the plug. But you have to give him the opportunity to see how he does because if he can repeat 2009, he's a stud.

Tao of Stieb said...

A .118 OBP versus LHPs is a hell of a blip.

I want to believe that it is all gonna be fine. But cripes...I'm just worried that we've seen the best of Lind, and now it's all paeans to his former glory.

Ty said...

At one of the games I went to this summer, the Red Sox brought out Dustin Richardson, a lefty, to face Lind. My girlfriend asked why they would change pitchers when the other guy was doing just fine, and I explained that Adam Lind was batting around .100 against lefties this year, and she agreed that, given his awful splits, the lefty-lefty matchup made a lot of sense. We had somehow ended up with seats such that we were the only Jays fans in our entire section, though, so we joked with our friendly Masshole neighbours that Francona was an idiot, and Lind was going to hit a home run against this guy. Sure enough, a few pitches later, he hit a no-doubter to left field - awesome to see.

Unfortunately, for most of the year it seemed that Lind was trying to pull the ball all the time (hence the general lack of opposite field hits). Against lefties, who almost always seemed to pitch him outside, that's an approach that pretty much guarantees failure. It seems to me that if Adam Lind starts using the whole field again, then his splits won't be nearly as dramatic as they were in 2010 - especially given that he put up a totally respectable line against LHP in 2009, when he was still spraying the ball all over the place.

I've got hope that some time off and a chance to see the difference in video between 2009 Lind and 2010 Lind should get him back on track. At the very least, he deserves a chance to show that he can make the adjustments before everybody writes him off for good.

Darren Priest said...

"In all likelihood, it had a lot to do with the missus rolling and poking me to try to get my snoring to a somewhat more tolerable level."

I feel your pain, Mrs. Tao.

Morgan Lipchitz said...

Good post, and the split does pose an interesting issue. However, it's not like any of us haven't heard of the Sophmore slump or a player struggling the first season after signing a long term contract.

The reality of it is, that if Lind makes solid contact he will be a good hitter against both LHP and RHP. Not swinging at pitches high and outside is something that can be fixed, just look at the adjustment Vernon made this past season. Lind is just swinging at pitches he simply can't put good wood on, and that is fixable.

Also, consider Lind's BABIP was ridiculously low. I assume some of his poor numbers are the result of poor luck, turning a down year into a year to forget entirely.

Ian - BJH said...

Also watched The Walking Dead before bed last night, and it 'twas not a very good idea. I had the nagging fear I was going to get bit by zombies.

Xave said...

I'm pretty worried about Lind, a lot more than I am about Hill. Lind's components didn't seem to indicate any sort of bad luck, he just straight-up sucked last year, and he's always sucked against lefties. William pointed out Lind's 2009 OPS against LHP of .780... well, decent as that is, he still showed a much larger-than-average platoon split.

Guy said...

Mr Tao: the fourth last word in your post should read "hole."

Love your blog and look forward to more.

Tao of Stieb said...

Holy shit. What a dumb mistake!

I woulda blown my top if I'd read someone else write "whole" instead of "hole".

I think I'm losing it.

Graham said...

As someone who has clearly watched the latest Walking Dead episode, was the first thing that entered your head when the CDC guy popped up on the screen "Holy crap, they got Roy Halladay in a zombie show"

Resemblance is uncanny.

Anonymous said...

The answer could be pretty straightforward.

The Cito approach was to go to the plate, and look for a pitch that you can pull over the fence. No hitting up the middle, no going the other way, no looking for line drives.

Just get up there, find a good pitch, and swing as hard as you can.

This worked for some (ok, one) batter on the Jays.

Guys like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are not (and should not) be those kind of batters. They should be hitting it in the gaps, trying to get on base more often, not swinging for the fences.

If Adam Lind is trying to pull everything over the right field wall (stats show he was pulling pitches more often last year than ever) it makes sense that a LHP can eat him up. Sliders/sinkers away and he is done.

Hopefully with the departure of Cito these players can return to their regular routine, and be effective once more.

The real question is.. which is a bigger travesty: Jeter winning a Gold Glove, or Cito finishing 5th in the Manager of the Year?
Both deserved to be near, or at the bottom of those rankings.

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