Does Adam Lind Have a Purpose?

Last summer, I wrote a little post titled 2009 Was a Million Years Ago that discussed how fortunes had changed greatly for a few players over just three years. Obviously, I could not cover everything, but I really missed something by not including the Blue Jays’ Adam Lind. In 2009, Lind finally got full season of playing time in Toronto and broke out at age 25, hitting .305/.370/.562 (140 wRC+) with 35 homers. Sure, he was a lousy defender in the outfield, but his bat looked like it would be good enough going forward so that it would play anywhere. The Jays certainly thought so, and bought out the rest of his arbitration years with a four-year, $18 million contract through 2013 that also included club options for 2014-16. It seemed like a no-brainer.

Fast forward to the present: Lind is in the last guaranteed season of that contract, and given his hitting over the last three seasons (combined with a lack of defensive value), it is probably a safe bet that his option for 2014 will not be picked up. Hope springs eternal, especially at this time of year. Lind is hoping that new (old) manager John Gibbons‘ approach with his players and coaching staff will lead to better communication, and thus to better results at the plate for Lind. There may be something to this, but after three consecutive seasons and more than 1500 plate appearances of poor hitting, this sort of seems like grasping at straws. Toronto made some big moves in order to turn itself into a contender, but while their lineup looks different in many ways, Lind is still set to be the team’s primary DH as they make a run at the playoffs in 2013. It is a conspicuous hole on a team clearly built to win now. Is there really any point to running Lind out there again?

There are some obvious reasons Lind is scheduled to get the shot. He is still guaranteed $5 million this season, and it seems unlikely that the Jays could trade him for anything of value , even if they ate the money. Additionally, the Jays do not really have another hitter who could step into that spot to start the year. Their bench likely will have a backup catcher, backup infielder Maicer Izturis, outfielder Rajai Davis, and Omar Vizquel Memorial Utility Man Mark DeRosa. As bad as Lind has been, for the DH spot, all that counts as a bat, and none of those players is likely to hit as well as Lind.

That is the practical explanation, the question is whether, or how much, value Lind really offers at DH beyond “hitting better than Zombie Mark DeRosa.” As noted above, he has been a below-average hitter the last three seasons, and a DH who is a league-average hitter is pretty much a replacement-level player. Perhaps surprisingly, Steamer (.332), Oliver (.325), and ZiPS (.327) all have Lind projected to have his highest wOBA since 2009, although even Steamer’s “optimistic” .332 is not all that great for a DH. It would probably be a few runs above average over the season.

The reasons for the projected improvement likely vary a bit. Each projection system uses its own formulas for regression performance, weighting past seasons, and adjusting for age. Part of it probably has to do with (at least some) projection systems still including 2009, even if it carries considerably less weight now. Aging probably does not hurt Lind’s projections all much, either. He will not turn 30 until July, so while he certainly is not a young player, he is not terribly old, either. Lind has never walked much, but the jump in his walk rate to back around league-average probably helps him (and walk rate generally increases as a player ages), as does his improved strikeout rate. Over the last three seasons, one of Lind’s big problems has been BABIP, and while it should not be treated as completely random or as if he were a pitcher, the projections probably regress it up toward average more given how much random fluctuation BABIP is subject to relative to other stats.

In any case, as said before, even aa wOBA of .332 is not great for a full-time designated hitter. So is Lind really likely to have a point other than not being DeRosa? As Eno Sarris noted last summer, the problem may be Lind’s ground ball tendency. While his ground ball rate was very high in 2012, it was actually lower in his poor 2010 and 2011 seasons, so that cannot explain everything. There is another, more obvious issue facing Lind — he is absolutely terrible versus left-handed pitching. Rather than being a big mark against Lind, however, this may actually point to a way in which his utility can be maximized by the Jays in 2013.

For his career, Lind is a .334 wOBA hitter. However, versus left-handed pitchers his career wOBA is just .267, which is bad even for a backup catcher. This is a problem for any full-time player, but especially a DH. However, when things like this are brought up, it is often forgotten that it has a good side, too: Lind is a career .358 wOBA hitter versus right-handed pitchers, who are the majority of pitchers a team faces. Readers of FanGraphs know that we cannot just use the observed numbers, especially for platoon splits, we need to regress the splits and apply the projected splits to projected 2013 performance. Lind has 755 career plate appearances versus southpaws in the majors, so while he is still heavily regressed, that is a pretty good sample compared to many players. However, given the size of his observed split, his projected split is quite large. Using Steamer’s .332 wOBA projection for Lind and applying the projected split, he projects as just a .290 wOBA hitter vesrus left-handed hitters. That is obviously unacceptable for a player whose only job is to hit. However, versus right-handed hitting, his projected wOBA is .347. A .347 wOBA is hardly that of a star hitter, and maybe not even an average player as a DH, but over a full season it would make him almost average as a DH.

Of course, Lind would not see a full season of plate appearances if he was strictly platooned. But the Jays have to pay him anyway, and they do need someone to play DH. Lind has his limitations, and I am not convinced there is much upside left. But even at a .325 projected overall wOBA, his projected wOBA versus righties is about .340. Rajai Davis is not much of a hitter overall, but he does hit right-handed. He could play DH versus lefties, or give, say, Jose Bautista a day off in the field, and has a big split. Perhaps Moises Sierra could be usesful in this role if he makes the roster. Finding a right-handed hitter is not that tough, and they do not vary nearly as much with respect to their platoon skill. Adam Lind by himself does not project to be an average player at DH when facing a full complement of pitchers. The Jays have also made some noises this off-season about Lind not being platooned. For the sake of But in a well-deployed platoon, Lind would move from being a sunk cost who is not Mark DeRosa to actually having a positive purpose on the Blue Jays’ roster because of, rather than despite, his big platoon split.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

30 Responses to “Does Adam Lind Have a Purpose?”

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  1. Steve 1 says:

    Great title.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      I’d appreciate Cistulli writing a NotGraphs piece with the same title, but turning for answers not to numbers and logic but to Catullus, Epictetus, and Aurelius.

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  2. Trevor Robinson says:

    I’d like to the Rajai Davis as the other half of a platoon at DH. If he doesn’t have to play the field on a regular basis like he did for most of last year, he could provide a lot of value there.

    His last three seasons of wOBA vs. L: .340, .363, .345.

    Career: .338.

    Davis could have some very nice value if he too is used correctly this season–as a pinch runner vs. R late in games and as a DH vs. L.

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  3. Baseball fan says:

    Adam Lind looks an awful lot like a cat.

    Does that count towards having a purpose?

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    • Spit Ball says:

      No but given his 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons his cat like looks give him at least 4 lives if not 9 given the fact that Gibby is planning on penciling him in at DH at least 2/3 of the time in 2013. Whatever his facial features reveal I’ve seen the man fumble around the bag at first base. Never once did nimble as a cat come across my mind.

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  4. Smith says:

    We’re here because we’re not free. There is no escaping reason; no denying purpose. Because as we both know, without purpose, we would not exist.

    It is purpose that created us.
    Purpose that connects us.
    Purpose that pulls us.
    That guides us.
    That drives us.
    It is purpose that defines us.
    Purpose that binds us.

    We are here because of you. We’re here to take from you what you tried to take from us.


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  5. Gareth says:

    What about unplanned pregnancies?

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  6. All Balls No Brains says:

    Could you please write a chick-lit novel of some type? This is a selfish request simply because I respect your titling abilities and think that genre would really let this skill shine.

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  7. Bluebird in Boulder says:

    He does have the ability, with the help of Gibby, to defeat the evil John Farrell.

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Infield Fly says:

      Everyone has to watch this ! Although there are some inside jokes geared directly at Jays fans !

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  8. Jaker says:

    It certainly will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    The fireworks have already started:

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  9. Ivan Grushenko says:

    Would the Jays not be better off with an OF of Gose, Rasmus and Melky with Bautista and Encarnacion at 1B and DH? I’m not seeing how Lind anywhere is an improvement over that configuration. Lind may start the season in the starting lineup but at the very least this option seems likely to receive consideration at some point without having to subject the team to Rajai Davis or Moises Sierra.

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    • Jaker says:

      Gose is just too much of a liability with the bat IMO. A K% of 31% has no place in the majors. He had an O-contact of just 51.1% and a total contact of just 72.5%. He’s not a power hitter. He can’t survive on limited contact. He’s a speed guy who needs to make contact to be effective.

      A DH platoon with Lind vs. RHB and Davis vs. LHB will far outproduce your suggested configuration.

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      • Jaker says:

        Should say RHPs and LHPs…

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      • Harry says:

        But Gose is not Felix Pie – he does have some power. If only he could make consistent contact.

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        • Jaker says:

          Not sure where you’re getting that. He’s only had one season in the minors with >300 PAs where he’s had an ISO >.150. He had an ISO of .096 last year in the majors. He might have more than Pie but that’s not saying much.

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    • Zimm says:

      i’ve been thinking along these lines since the Jays made their big acquisitions this offseason. i suspect that if Gose is productive in AAA and Lind is, well, Lind, we’ll see a change by midseason somewhere along these lines. it also wouldn’t surprise me to see Gose in CF and Rasmus’ role reduced.

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    • Kevin says:

      Bautista is not going to DH until it becomes painfully obvious that he’s a liability in the outfield. at present, that would be a tough sell.

      also, not sure Gose in LF is any better than Lind at DH, and for the sake of his development Gose should get some development time in a proper AAA environment.

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  10. Mark says:

    The article should have simply said “No.”.

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  11. Tim says:

    Lind’s offensive ability didn’t disappear. It was consumed, through some occult process, by the greedy gaping bat of Jose Bautista. If Lind leaves the team, Bautista may revert to his 2009 level.

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  12. Mithel says:

    Adam Lind does not look like a cat. He looks like an emoticon. -_- specifically.

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  13. Mylegacy says:

    I think a Lind/Davis platoon is the best situation.

    Lind vs righties is at least almost OK, Davis vs lefties is at least almost OK…in addition… with Davis batting 8th (against lefties), Bonifacia batting 9th (as a switch hitter he will play against both r and l handed pitchers) and Reyes (also a switch hitter) batting lead off – every time these guys DO get on base the left handed starters will be facing (arguably) the best three base running threats in a row on any big league team in the sport.

    The Jays will have an impressive speed/power split that most pitchers will find very challenging.

    With their starting pitching and under appreciated bull pen – I think they’ve put together a very serious team. Should make for an interesting, entertaining year in the frozen north, n’est pas? Eh?

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  14. OmarVizquel says:

    I retired

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  15. dc says:

    I agree that the davis/lind platoon would work best.

    sierra used vs lefties would also allow you to keep davis on the bench for pinch running (if bonafacio is starting)

    the league adjusted to lind and hill after their terrific 2009, both weren’t able to fix their weaknesses. if lind wants to be successful again he needs to lay off the high heat and hit the gym

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    • Sivart says:

      Hill seems to have adjusted quite well actually.

      I agree about the gym comment. If you can’t hit, you shouldn’t be as out of shape as Lind always is. There’s really no excuse for him not trying to shape up to at least improve his defense and baserunning.

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  16. greenfrog says:

    I agree that Lind/Davis probably makes the most sense, at least until AA finds a more productive DH.

    One problem, though, is that managers are tempted to play Lind against LHP when he gets hot (or managers are disinclined to pull him when the opposition brings in a lefty reliever). Last year he had 96 PA against lefties. The year before he had 149. So you never really get the benefit of a strict platoon.

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  17. Delmon Youngs sprained left fat says:

    DH’s who don’t hit well dont’ get good contracts the next year….

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  18. Jameson says:

    TLDR: No.

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