If you interrogate some of the career-best numbers Adam Lind is putting up this year, you get a complicated answer full of maybes and what abouts: he’s swinging less, making more contact, and has a more even batted ball mix. If you interrogate Adam Lind about the numbers he is putting up this year, you get belly laughs and a more intuitive blend of changes in approach and mechanics. The two don’t necessarily blend perfectly, but they do combine to paint the picture of a slugger coming into his own.
The change in Lind’s plate discipline peripherals is stark. He’s never swung less than 43% of the time, and he’s down at least five percent in that category no matter which stats you prefer. Most of that is coming from reaching less, which is a great thing. And some of these stats are the first to stabilize — since these are per-pitch stats, we’re talking about a sample size of 760 already. Does the 29-year-old think he’s changed his approach at the plate with respect to swinging? “It’s a product of being in a good position to hit on a consistent basis,” said Lind.
At times, Adam Lind has been perhaps a bit too ground-ball heavy for a slugger. His worst power years (last year and 2008) were also the years he hit the most ground balls. This year, Lind’s ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is back closer to one as a result of hitting the ball on the ground less often. He’s showing some of the best isolated slugging percentages of his career right now, and though that number is better used on a full-season level, the batted ball stats behind him have crossed reliability thresholds. And what does he think of those batted ball changes? “I’ve always been really streaky and I’m in one of those streaks right now,” was Lind’s answer.
Could it be that he’s solidly in a platoon now and rarely sees lefties? Over the course of his career, he’s reached on 5% fewer pitches against righties than lefties, and now he’s basically not seeing lefties at all. And yet there’s the ‘pinch-hitter’ penalty, which says that batters that sit for an extended period of time play below their true-talent abilities when put in the game. Does that apply to platoon players? Lind says it’s not like high school, where you may not practice for a week, and then you have games and you have to get hits — now “it’s like you miss a day and someone’s asking about how can you play baseball without BP?” He’s fine with the “just show up and play” attitude, and he admits he hasn’t been hitting the premier lefties in the league that well the last few years. But he wouldn’t quite go so far as to call the platoon situation an boon to his approach.
All right then. Let’s try a different tack. What did Lind think he could chalk this recent run of success up to? “Experience, maturing as a hitter, not being so stubborn, and letting it happen instead of trying to force the issue,” he said. He did admit that maturing as a hitter might give him a better idea of when not to swing, and that ‘letting it happen’ might be another way to say he’s swinging less. But it’s more of an intuitive approach, a mindset when he comes to the plate, rather than a mechanical decision to swing less often.
We did stumble on something that might be more mechanical. When I asked him if anything was different about his swing itself, Lind did say that he’s “swinging 90%” and trying to “flip it” in play. A career-low swinging strike rate seems to suggest that swinging at less-than-max effort is allowing him to change direction a bit while his bat is in motion. He agreed that he’s less violent, or “under control,” and that maybe that allows him to make more mid-flight adjustments, but mentioned that he still has his swing. Obviously, since he’s still showing some his best power numbers, too.
“When your dad tells you the harder they throw, the farther it goes, that’s not necessarily true when you’re twelve, but now that I’m — I guess — a man, it’s much easier to hit it hard as long as you hit on the sweet spot of your bat.” — Adam Lind
It’s interesting that Lind has hit the ball farther by putting less effort into the ball. We can’t claim that he’s putting the ball in the air more or simply hitting the balls farther. He’s hit his fly balls and home runs an average of 289 feet over his career, and this year those same balls are going 286 feet. Three of his six home runs have been classified as ‘Just Enough’ by HitTrackerOnline, which is above the league average (30.1%), but also just a couple no-doubters away from being within reason. Put another way, all home runs this year have averaged 104 mph going off the bat and have gone 397 feet. Lind’s? 107 mph and 408 feet.
It looks like, in Adam Lind‘s case, 90% is more than just enough. It’s just about right.
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