Adam Lind — 90% is Just Enough

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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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

28 Responses to “Adam Lind — 90% is Just Enough”

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  1. adam lind says:

    great analysis. i used to ground ball a lot now im a stud!

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  2. adam lind says:

    can u do a jacob turner becoming a star before he becomes a star. i hate how u guys are always late to the party…thanks

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    • Hank says:

      Seriously. C’mon fangraphs, get your act together and tell me what changes a hitter is going to make before he makes them and how good he’s going to be. This “waiting for facts to exist and then reporting and interpreting them” bullshit is just not enough anymore.

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    • frivoflava29 says:

      I know he’s 22 and I’m remembering he looked good with the Tigers but I see a .241 babip, 3.74 xfip, nothing impressive about 13:7 k/bb over 20 innings. But I’m curious about him because that’s not a huge sample size, he’s just been looking really bad with Miami… is there something worth talking about?

      Have to agree though, as much as I like the writers here.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        I mean, we do have prospect writers. And I did write a post about how Dom Brown’s swing change was likely to produce better results. What you’re asking for is pretty tough, not like major league teams can do that with any reliability.

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        • frivoflava29 says:

          I should clarify because I really don’t mean to sound critical — trust me, I think it’s been a tough season for prospect coverage. My agreement was more about what I feel is a general inability to accurately track some of these deep prospects this year; I like you guys — I mean it! — but I’m overwhelmed by the number of fish that I didn’t expect, and this is coming from someone who happily touted Jean Segura as his starting shortstop entering the year.

          I guess it’s me just trying to be fair to this man after I had to call out his Turner example. Some quick digging will show that a few of you guys at FanGraphs -have- touched on him in various writeups and like I said, I don’t know what’s particularly mentionable about him right now. He’s an interesting prospect, but to me, he shows nothing that seems worth more than the couple paragraphs he already has.

          Or you can have Carson put away the Fringe Five column and finish his time machine, I don’t really care to be honest with you

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  3. lester bangs says:

    He actually is facing some lefties now, and is doing just fine.

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    • Billy says:

      Sort of facing lefties. He has 21 AB’s against them on the year. Yes he’s 11/21 against them, but that’s just about the definition of “small sample size” right now. It is enough to warrant the Jays leaving him in against lefties all the time again though in my mind.

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    • sk says:

      For now. But we’ll see if they hold up because his splits vs Lefties in his career are terrible. Like Eno says here, a big part of Lind’s success this year his how Gibbons has used him mostly against RHP. But given Lind’s hot start, last night’s start against Quintana and I’m guessing his start tonight against Sale, it looks like the platoon is ending.

      Even though ZIPS his bullish on him for the rest of the year, I’m still skeptical if Lind has remade himself. In 2011 Lind also had a great start to the season (WOBA of .370) before the ASG but struggled mightily in the 2nd half (.254 WOBA). Conditioning was a factor there – the Jays claimed.

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    • Jaker says:

      No. 21 ABs is nothing.

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      • lester bangs says:

        Obviously the sample is tiny and can’t be taken for much – we all know that. Just making the point that he’s getting a chance to play every day. Maybe this is good, maybe this isn’t good. Depends on format, I guess.

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  4. brad says:

    Lind’s ISO was .257 in 2009. This year it’s .196. I genuinely don’t mean to be contentious, but how is he showing career high power numbers? Is that something that shows up in the batted ball stats?

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    • Darren says:

      “He’s showing the best isolated slugging percentages in the league right now”

      I wonder if he was looking at his BABIP which really explains a lot of his production.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        No idea where those came from, some sort of stomach-flu-fever-induced madness. Fixed. thanks!

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      • MustBunique says:

        Ditto Brad’s comment.

        Also, how does a .196 ISO represent “One of the best isolated slugging percentages in the league?” Min 100 PA, Lind ranks 73rd in MLB.

        Also not trying to be contentious, genuinely interested in any power tradeoff he has had to make with his new approach.

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  5. grant says:

    In spring training Lind made comments about mixed messages last year, between Farrell preaching patience and Murphy’s “grip it and rip it” philosophy as the hitting coach. Watching him, he clearly seems more patient, and appears more content to knock a line drive the other way rather than trying to pull every single pitch.

    Having written that I’m now going to check his spray chart.

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  6. Rob says:

    Lind is hitting the ball to all fields with authority like he did so well in 2009 and he has abandoned the pull everything approach advocated by the former hitting coach. He has hit 6 homers — one to left, two to left center, one to right center and two to right. His spray chart shows hits and outs peppered all over the field. His swing also appears much more controlled and relaxed compared to last year’s more violent max effort swing.

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    • derp says:

      Adam Lind is just one of many hitters who magically turned to garbage when they got onto the Jays only to return to form as soon as they left. The one thing in common? The cancer to hitting known as Dwanye Murphy. It’s no coincidence that Lind and Aaron Hill turned to garbage as soon as he became the hitting coach, and no coincidence that both of them became good again once that cancer got out of their game.

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      • everdiso says:

        weird that Murphy’s demotion hasn’t seemed to help any other hitter on the roster.

        and I guess we can’t blame Murphy for Travis Snider anymore, either.

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      • fmf says:

        Well, Murphy didn’t exactly help Travis Snider develop much either. But his retooling of the swings of Bautista and Encarnacion are conveniently left out of your oncological assessment.

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        • Ano.te says:

          Yet at no point here does anyone mention that Dwayne Murphy is no longer the Jays hitting coach. He is the first base coach, and has very minimal part time (or assistant) hitting coach duties.

          And when did Lind ever leave and come back from the Jays? He was drafted, developed, and paid by the jays. Complete farm product. Question mark?

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        • derp says:

          And that’s why Murphy is still on the team. His approach works for SOME players, his issue is that he tries to turn every soft hitting infielder or all-field line drive hitter into Babe Ruth, and there’s no effort to individualize his coaching to hitter’s strengths.

          Lind turned to garbage once Murphy came on (offseason of 2009), went down to AAA in 2012 and rebounded instantly under Mottola, and performed much better when called back up ROS, and has become their best hitter in 2013. Hardly a coincidence.

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  7. Matty Brown says:

    I am most impressed, read: shocked, by his impressive walk rate this season.

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  8. Jason says:

    Since both you and Lind are speaking about physical distance of flyballs, you should both be using ‘farther’ as opposed to ‘further’.

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  9. Ano.te says:

    Lind did hardcore hot yoga over the offseason.

    I watch almost every Toronto game. He can run from first to third this year, and he looks much more nimble at the plate. His increased bat control, or in your words “going at 90%” is a result of him coming to grips with his professional role and his personality. Again, the yoga helped him settle into his reality.

    I blame his offseason yoga routine for the success, and nothing else.

    I don’t know how else to say I am being totally serious here.

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  10. brendan says:

    sorry to be that guy, enno, but it’s ‘try a different tack’ as in sailing.

    “All right then. Let’s try a different tact…”

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  11. Greg W says:

    I’ve been watching Lind since he was a rookie. Some anecdtal things:

    1. He always comes across as laid back, and not needing to give a lot of thought to the game to be successful. I’m sure he didn’t need to be a student of the game to succeed when he was younger, but that kind of approach is difficult to have success with at the major league level. Not impossible, just difficult.

    2. His physical conditioning has clearly been lacking in most seasons, which the yoga may very well have improved. His first year DHing, I’m guessing he came to work thinking about playing left field, and working his body to that level. His second year DHing, he seemed to train only to a level where he was fit enough to hit, and he stunk. His first year at first, he obsessed about taking grounders and getting good at playing 1B, and one could infer that poor overall conditioning led to his back injury at that point.

    3. Previously, when in a slump, Lind appeared to tighten up when hitting 0-1, and get into swing mode, almost as though he was worried he would be watching strike 2 go by on the next pitch. So, not ready to hit the first pitch, desperate to hit the second one. LOOGYs would consistently start with a strike on the outer half, and then get swings on 2 of the next three pitches farther and farther outside. This year, his approach does not seem to change when down 0-1. He’s still looking for a specific pitch, and will take borderline pitches.

    Are any of these things backed up by the stats? Not sure, but I’ve watched a lot of Lind at-bats, and there haven’t been very many to cringe over this year, which is a welcome change.

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