Adam Lind is a major leaguer again. It’s probably because the Vladimir Guerrero thing didn’t pan out, or because the 25-year-old David Cooper doesn’t have the same power upside, or because Lind might actually be a better defensive first baseman than Edwin Encarnacion (or “E5”). It could be because of any of these things. But fantasy players may be tempted to think it was because Lind hit .395/.451/.669 in Las Vegas, and are probably ready to give Lind another shot. Should they?
First, we probably have to diagnose what was ‘wrong’ with what Lind was doing in the major leagues this year. Once we know what was wrong, we can try to figure out if he fixed it.
Lind, at his best, combines power with the ability to make good contact, at least against right-handed pitchers. In 2009, he had a .257 ISO and struck out 16.8% of the time. Both of those numbers are significantly better than the league averages (~.150 and ~20% respectively most years). He’s never put up anything like those numbers at the same time, but he has struck out 19.5% of the time in his career, and had a .188 ISO in the two seasons since 2009. Both of those numbers are still better than average.
This year, he was still able to keep the strikeout rate lower than average (18.2%, backed by the best swinging strike rate of his career at 6.6%). But the power disappeared. He had a .127 ISO (lowest of his career), and a 9.7% home-run-per-fly-ball rate (second-lowest of his career).
It might be because of all the ground balls he’s hitting. His ground-ball-per-fly-ball ratio (1.48 this year) is the second-worst of his career. The last time it was this bad, he had the second-worst power year of his career (2008, 1.68 GB/FB). He’s always hit more ground balls than fly balls (career 1.17), but his better power years have come when the ratio was closer to one. See the relationship, graphically:
So, the bad news about Lind’s work in Las Vegas is that his ground-ball percentage went up. So so did his line drive percentage, of course, but it’s his ground-ball percentage that has varied more over his career and seems more tied to his power output. So, the fact that his ground-ball percentage was up to 49% in Las Vegas, and the fact that 49% would have been the second-most ground-ball heavy of his minor league seasons, and the second-worst of his major league seasons — that fact does not bode well for his power over the course of the season.
But he had a .272 ISO in Las Vegas! He’s roaring back to life! Well, he did do it with a .436 BABIP in the most offensive-friendly league in baseball. In this split-league situations, Brian Cartwright from The Hardball Times turns to his Major League Equivalency (MLE) lines to bridge the gap. If you combine the MLE for Lind’s work in Las Vegas with his previous work in Toronto this year, you get a .256/.326/.423 according to the OLIVER engine. Last year, Lind’s park-adjusted numbers were .256/.302/.431, points out Cartwright. There doesn’t seem to be much change.
Is there room for hope?
Cartwright mentions that Lind has pulled more balls with an uppercut since his 35-homer season, and that has killed his BABIP to right field. His BABIP has certainly dropped on pulled balls — from .311 down to .200 so far this year — but it doesn’t necessarily look like Lind has figured this bit out, either. He’s consistently hit for more fly balls to the opposite field (18.1% GB, 61.5% FB career) and more ground balls to the pull field (57.9% GB, 22.6% FB career). The fact that he’s hitting more ground balls than usual, even in Las Vegas, suggests that he’s still focused on pulling the ball.
You can see it in his batted ball angle, too. Check the graphs below, from baseballheatmaps.com, and you can see that he’s gradually pulled the ball more (on the left, more positive is more pull), and that his batted ball distance has stayed the same or even gone down as he’s done so (on the right, home runs, fly balls and line drives distances). It’s not a great look. Look at that dip in his batted ball angle, when he actually tended towards going ‘oppo’? That’s 2009!
Knowing his batted ball splits in the minor leagues, or more about the angle the ball leaves his bat (and perhaps the velocity at which it leaves his bat), might help in this situation. But, even with the numbers we have, it looks like nothing has truly changed about Adam Lind. He can give you a few home runs and is usable on deeper rosters against righties. At least he’s back in the bigs!
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