December 27, 2011
Would the Real Adam Lind Please Stand Up?
Twice this month, I have mentioned Adam Lind in articles. He was first mentioned as someone who was a batting average bounce-back candidate based on the fact that players with low batting averages and low pitches per plate appearances in one season tend to rebound the following season. He was next mentioned this past week as someone who, in some incomplete sample sizes, has had issues against left-handed pitching. Now that we have the bookends for the Lind story, it is time to get into the actual story and see what kind of chapter 2012 could be for Lind after mostly mixed reviews of his previous work.
Lind has had three full seasons of work in the major leagues, and we have seen the great, the bad, and the ugly. He has accumulated 1809 plate appearances over the past three seasons and has a slash line of .265/.318/.478 during that time with a seven percent walk rate and a 22 percent strikeout rate. He also has a .293 BABIP in that time along with a .213 ISO.
When most fantasy players come across Lind, his struggles against lefties are at the forefront of the discussion, so let us take a deeper dive into those issues. In 2009, he had a .275/.318/.461 slash line against lefties in 179 plate appearances, which plummeted to .117/.159/.182 in 2010 but somewhat rebounded to .243/.275/.364 last season in 149 plate appearances. A 639 OPS is not much to write home about, but it was nearly double of what it was the previous season. Keep in mind, those numbers are Lind against all left-handed pitching, which includes the specialists that proliferate bullpens these days. When we break down his numbers into two groups: those against left-handed starters and those against left-handed relievers, we see a different story. Here are Lind’s numbers against only left-handed starters and left-handed relievers over the past three seasons
The specialists have been extremely effective in neutering Lind in late innings, and the two best at it have been Randy Choate and Mark Hendrickson. Those two have faced Lind 31 times over the past three seasons, and he has collected but two singles against them while walking once and striking out 12 times. On the starting pitching side, his he’s performed worst against David Price and Jon Lester, going 8-for-52 against those two over the past three seasons while walking once and striking out 16 times. Of course, we’re dealing with small samples here, so take them for what you will.
Given the fact lefty specialists only come about once a game, the issues Lind has against lefties could potentially be limited by his exposure to lefty specialists. Additionally, 20 percent of his issues to this point can be traced back to two pitchers, one of which is out of the league (Choate) and the other one may be as well (Hendrickson).
There is an additional, potentially worrisome trend in his effectiveness against right-handed pitching, which is in a three-year slide.
Trends like that can turn around, as they did for Jorge Posada in 2009—remember, we’re still looking at very small sample sizes as far as platoon splits go. From 2003 to 2005, Posada saw his OPS against right-handed pitching go from 915 to 867 to 766 before rebounding with 900-plus seasons in three of the next four years. Lind’s numbers were unbelievable in 2009 and still 20 percent above league average in 2010 before finishing just five percent above league average last season. His struggles last season can partially be attributed to lower back spasms that led to him missing 25 games in the first half of the season as well as a wrist issue that first popped up when Gio Gonzalez hit him on the hand with a pitch on August 20. Lind hit .300/.349/.515 in the season’s first half around the back spasms but fell off to an abysmal .197/.233/.356 in the season’s second half, hitting .204/.245/.359 after the wrist issue on August 20. In 2009, Lind walked ten percent of the time against righties while striking out just 14 percent, but that walk rate has been seven percent each of the past two seasons while his strikeout rate has been 20 and 18 percent, respectively, taking that strong 0.73 BB/K rate from 2009 and halving it to 0.37 over the past two seasons. Still, we have seen what a healthy Lind can do over a full season against righties, and even in his “bad” season of 2010, he was still better than league average against them.
PECOTA has Lind at .264/.317/.473 this season, projecting 548 plate appearances with 24 home runs, 56 extra base hits, and 78 runs driven in. That puts him right alongside Mike Carp on the first baseman list, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement considering Carp has barely played half a season in the majors while Lind has three full seasons under his belt. Lind is quite unlikely to hit .300 again unless his plate discipline rebounds to 2009 levels, but 30 home runs is within the realm of possibility given his home ballpark. As recently as this past June, he hit .311/.386/.644 in 104 plate appearances, showing flashes of 2009 production levels. From May 1 until the All-Star break, he hit .318/.378/.571 over 172 plate appearances before the wheels came off in the second half of the season.
In 2009, Lind was productive over the course of a full season while showing only splashes of it over the past two seasons. At 28, it is too early to write him off as an also-ran at the position because he has demonstrated periods of excellent success, varying in duration. A full rebound to 2009 levels of production is a bit greedy, but a healthy Lind that can sustain some of the mid-season success he had last season could provide nice value within the middle-tier of first basemen.