Over the summer, Mike Petriello wrote a wonderful article outlining the improvements shown by Adam Lind in the first half of the season. The Blue Jays’ first baseman had consciously chosen to become more patient at the plate, and Mike broke down the numbers to illustrate the point. Indeed, Lind was swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone — and at fewer pitches in general — which resulted in a higher walk rate and overall higher production.
To further the point, if we place his seasonal numbers in conversation with each other, it’s quite easy to understand why Lind experienced success for the first time since his 2009 breakout campaign.
When Adam Lind is more selective at the plate, he hits for more power and compiles a higher wOBA. The 2012 season stands out as a potential counterexample, but it’s important to remember that Lind didn’t do much other than pound baseballs into the ground a year ago. His 48.3% ground ball rate hindered him from tapping into his plus power, and while his 45.9% ground ball rate from this season isn’t much lower, that rate is pulled up from a 55.7% ground ball rate in the month of August. Not surprisingly, Lind rocked a mere .126 ISO in August.
So we’re not breaking too much new ground here. Mike Petriello outlined much of this earlier in the year, and while it’s notable that Lind was able to sustain these improvements throughout the remaining three-to-four months of the season, we’re not talking about anything different. At most, we’re arguing his improvements proved sustainable and could be reasonably expected to extend into 2014.
Pushing this more in the direction of fantasy baseball, we have a very simple question that’s presented to us. If Adam Lind experienced so much improvement this season — his .368 wOBA ranked 22nd in all of baseball — why was he only the 18th-ranked fantasy first baseman in ESPN leagues? Why was he the 21st-ranked first basemen according to Zach Sanders’ end-of-season rankings?
Multiple things are in play: (1) the Blue Jays utilized Lind as a platoon player which limited his overall number of at-bats compared to more elite first basemen, (2) his 23 home runs are nice but ultimately nothing special at the first base position, and (3) his other counting stats — runs, RBI and stolen bases — left a lot to be desired. All of these things simultaneously worked together to limit Lind’s fantasy value and make him a fringe play at first base.
It’s been well-established Lind cannot handle left-handed pitching. Even this year, he compiled a .253 wOBA in 100 plate appearance versus lefties. Thus, the Blue Jays severely limited his opportunities against southpaws, and that left 20 first basemen with at least as many overall plate appearances. When talking about fantasy baseball, it’s a significant difference between a guy like Prince Fielder who accumulated 712 plate appearances this year and Lind who only had 521. That’s almost 200 more plate appearances to produce for your fantasy team.
Furthermore, I argued that his 23 home runs were nothing special. The first base position puts a heavy premium on power in fantasy baseball, so it takes an elite performance to really stand out from the crowd. There were 19 first basemen with at least 20 home runs this season. Thus, a mere 23 home runs isn’t something that’s going to differentiate Adam Lind from the remainder of the positional landscape. He’s one of the crowd in terms of 20+ home runs.
Finally, and the first point about his necessary platoon role plays into this, Lind’s run and RBI totals were decidedly mediocre. He ranked 17th amongst first basemen in runs scored and 18th in RBIs. At this point, it shouldn’t be difficult to ascertain why he was the 18th-best fantasy first baseman in ESPN leagues this year. Mediocre counting stats across the board, and it shouldn’t shock anyone that he’s wholly useless in the stolen base category.
It’s actually interesting Lind struggled to score and drive in runs this year. The Blue Jays scored the 9th-most runs in Major League Baseball, and Lind batted cleanup 68 times and in the fifth spot 42 times. It seems as if he should have received ample opportunities to create runs, not to mention he hit .279/.373/.606 with runners in scoring position. The lack of plate appearances due to his platoon must have absolutely killed his counting statistics because it seems he was otherwise a prime candidate to drive in and score runs.
The increased patience — and his subsequent better production — seems legitimate and can be reasonably expected to carry over into the 2014 season. However, Lind shouldn’t see increased time against left-handed pitching. Nothing he did this year indicates that achilles heel has disappeared. If he doesn’t get everyday at-bats and is just a platoon option for the Blue Jays, I’m inclined to believe his level of production this season is the best for which fantasy owners can hope. Maybe a touch higher on the average or a few more home runs, but fundamentally, this is it. And “this” was the 18th-best fantasy first baseman in ESPN leagues.
Going into next spring, Adam Lind is nothing more than a fringe option as an everyday first baseman for fantasy owners. Perhaps he could be successfully platooned in daily leagues, but that’s someone to keep on the bench or utilize as a floating utility player at most. And truly, if you’re going to go with a platoon bat, Brandon Moss is a more attractive option in that role.