Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adam Lind is Back

Lind has been one of the few bright spots on a terrible Toronto team
A lot has gone wrong for the Toronto Blue Jays this season.  Melky Cabrera has regressed into the player he was pre-2011. Jose Reyes played all of ten games before getting hurt, and Brett Lawrie struggled mightily before joining him on the Disabled List. Emilio Bonifacio has been terrible. J.P. Arencibia can't get on base to save his life. The entire rotation, from R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle to Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow, has gone bust.

However, it's not all bad. The bullpen has been phenomenal, and the starting pitching seems to be coming around a bit. Late-bloomers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have provided plenty of power and deserve to make the All-Star team.

And then there's the resurrection of Adam Lind, the former Blue Jay star who was lost but now is found.

Lind debuted in 2006 but didn't burst onto the scene until 2009, his first full season. He roped 46 doubles, smashed 35 home runs, drove in 114 runs, and piled up 330 total bases. He batted .305/.370/.562, won the Designated Hitter Silver Slugger (taking advantage of David Ortiz's worst season with the Red Sox), and picked up some MVP votes. The future appeared bright for Lind, who at 25 was just coming into his prime.

With everyone watching to see what he could do for an encore, the wheels fell off in 2010. After a fast start, he abandoned his plate discipline during his first prolonged slump of the season. The results were disastrous. His batting line sunk to .237/.287/.425 and he struck out in 23.5 percent of his plate appearances, a career worst. Even more troubling was his complete and utter helplessness against lefthanded pitchers, against whom he batted a pathetic .117/.159/.182.

In 2011, Lind got off to a great start again and seemed to be back. He was hitting .317/.348/.524 before May 7th, when left the game with lower back stiffness. He missed four weeks. After returning on June 4th, he reverted into the Lind of 2010 and batted .229/.279/.412 the rest of the way. His overall numbers were better than they had been the year before, but only slightly so.

Those struggles carried over into 2012 and got so bad that Lind was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas in mid-May. Two weeks later, Toronto placed him on waivers. Nobody claimed him.

That seemed to spark Lind. He crushed the ball in Vegas. returned to the big club on June 24th, and batted .296/.339/.473 from that point forward (even though his futility against southpaws persisted). Nobody paid much attention while the injury-plagued Blue Jays played out the string.

Expectations were sky high for the 2013 Blue Jays following a flurry of winter moves netted four former All-Stars, including the reigning NL Cy Young winner. But winning the offseason does not always translate to winning the regular season, and Toronto's new superteam started slow out of the gates. Lind was no exception. Through May 2nd, he batted just .220/.394/.280 with no home runs and three RBI, seemingly well on his way to a fourth straight disappointing season.

Then, a funny thing happened. Lind started hitting again, and he hasn't stopped. Following a 3-for-5 performance against the White Sox last night, he brought his batting line up to .344/.418/.540 on the season. Manager John Gibbons has been wise to limit Lind's exposure against southpaws, giving him just 22 at-bats against lefties to date.

However, Lind's hot streak has much more to do with getting back to the approach that made him so successful four years ago. Lind has become incredibly selective, offering at just 38 percent of pitches he sees (well below his career average of 47.4 percent). He's swinging smarter. His outside swing percentage, which jumped as high as 37.1 percent in 2011, is down all the way to 23.4 percent, right in line with where it was in '09 (24.7 percent). Not surprisingly, his walk rate is the highest it's ever been.

So instead of trying to do too much and getting himself out, Lind is letting the pitchers come to him. Luck's been on his side, as his .391 BABiP will attest. but his adjustments in the batter's box are legit. As long as stays within himself and doesn't try to single-handedly save Toronto's season, he should continue to produce strong numbers going forward.

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