Lind Having Good At-Bats Despite Slow Start
Small sample alert: after just one week’s worth of games, it’s pointless to draw conclusions about any player in the league. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about them, though, and note some observations.
Profile: Adam Lind
Blue Jays fans are impatient and frustrated with Lind, and rightfully so. He has struggled immensely over the last three years and his 1-for-16 start to the season doesn’t help him any, either.
But throughout Toronto’s initial six games, five of which Lind has played, I thought I saw some good at-bats from the 29-year-old, so I went back to watch every one of them to see if my inclination was right.
What I found was that Lind’s 1-for-16, .063/.167/.063 line with two walks is better than it sounds. He has had some solid at-bats, been a tad unlucky and been on the wrong side of some bad calls. Now, it’s important to note, of course, that many players fall victim to such circumstances.
I chose to single out Lind, though, based on conversations I had with him and hitting coach Chad Mottola during spring training. Also, because Lind’s a lightning rod for criticism and if one were to miss all of Toronto’s games and simply look at his numbers, then one would assume Lind has been terrible at the plate – which would not be true.
Breakdown of Lind’s 18 plate appearances
Hits: 1 (single up the middle vs. John Lackey)
Walks: 2 (vs. Ubaldo Jimenez and Alfredo Aceves)
Strikeouts: 1 (swinging vs. Justin Masterson)
Groundouts: 5 (two to short, one to second, one to first, one to pitcher)
Fly outs: 9 (all were hit to center or left field)
What Lind isn’t doing so far is striking out or failing to make contact. In fact, he is making contact at a 90-plus percent rate when swinging the bat and has only swung and missed on two of the 64 pitches he has seen this year. Even when he has chased, which has largely been on mid-high and outside fastballs, he is still managing to get a piece.
Now, in some instances, those have ended in fly outs – some lazy ones, too. But, at least so far, the opposition isn’t putting pitches by him. Keep in mind that he has been steered completely clear of left-handers and has been much more successful hitting righties throughout his career.
He has had some bad outs and swung at some bad pitches but name me one player who hasn’t.
Lind hasn’t pulled any ball he has put in play in the air this season and has been listening to what Mottola has been preaching – staying with the pitch and driving it up the middle or sending it the other way.
One ball that he did pull was one of his best swings this year – an 0-1 slider from Indians reliever Cody Allen with the bases loaded that he absolutely ripped down the right-field line, but it hooked foul.
That should make Mottola - who I’m sure isn’t paying attention to the small sample just like he didn’t care for Lind’s hot spring (statistically speaking) - happy because Lind is at least applying what the team believes is going to help him get back on track.
It will be even easier (relatively speaking) to maintain that approach as long as he continues to sit against left-handers, something I, like many, have been advocating for a long time now.
There were also three hard-hit grounders that stood out to me. One, in the first game of the season, came with the bases loaded. Lind smoked a 1-1 fastball from Masterson at Asdrubal Cabrera who made a slick play on it to start a 6-4-3 double play.
Not much you can do about that – Lind made very good contact on the pitch.
His next plate appearance that game, Lind put a good piece on a slider that Masterson left up but grounded out to first.
The following day, Lind was victim to the defensive positioning of Cabrera (again), who was shifted close enough to second base to easily handle a well-hit ball shot up the middle off Jimenez.
Again, this happens to everyone, but these were solid outs and include examples of him going up the middle and the other way. Lind has also put good contact on a couple of his fly outs; one he hit around 400 feet to center field and the other to the warning track in left.
He wasn’t helped by home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck in his first plate appearance against Lackey on Saturday, either. The PITCHf/x data shows Hirschbeck was generous to Lackey on two calls, one more obvious than the other but, in the end, bad calls that put him in a hole.
Lind should have been up 3-0 going into the fourth pitch but was instead down 1-2 and ended up putting weak contact on a low fastball outside the zone for a groundout. If Hirschbeck gets the calls right, Lind isn’t forced to go chasing on that last pitch.
Whether he would have or not is another story but those missed calls alter the entire at-bat and are often easily forgotten about.
It’s early but Lind’s puny .067 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is really the result of some unluckiness. Lind has hit 100 percent of the pitches he has swung at inside the strike zone and over 80 percent of the ones outside the zone. These numbers are going to come down – for his career they read 87.9% and 68.3%, respectively – but the point is to illustrate that Lind is seeing the ball well.
I’ll revisit how Lind is doing once there is a larger sample of data to look at later in the month.
h/t to Fangraphs for stats