Adam Lind Through 18 Plate Appearances

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It's a small sample, sure, but what can we learn from Lind's first 18 trips to the dish?

A big concern heading into this season was whether Adam Lind could rebound from his sub-par 2012 season (and really, 2010-12 seasons) and return to his slugging ways of 2009. If he could, the Blue Jays order looks that much more dangerous in the middle. If he couldn’t, well, there’s quite the drop-off after Edwin Encarnacion in terms of power and danger.

Six games in, things look bleak. In 18 plate appearances, Lind has just a single hit and a pair of walks, producing the wonderful slash line of .063/.167/.063 for an otherworldly wRC+ of -30.

Of course, in terms of statistics, 18 plate appearances doesn’t mean a heck of a lot. So I went back and re-watched all 18 times Lind has been to the plate to break down how he’s looking – normally, Baseball Prospectus could hook us up with his PITCHf/x player profile, but it’s too early in the year so I’m doing this the hard way.

This might get repetitive/boring, so feel free to scroll down to the analysis section.

One by one

Apr 2, 1st inning: Runners on first and second (12_). Lind takes a ball way outside and a strike on the black, both sinkers from Justin Masterson. He fouls off a sinker right in the sweet spot (high-middle) and then fouls off a slider inside. Masterson wastes a sinker way outside (2-2), and then whiffs Lind with a 96 MPH fastball a full six inches above the strikezone. Not a bad at bat until the last pitch, which we’ll see Lind really needs to learn to lay off.

Apr 2, 3rd inning: Bases loaded (123). Masterson has just walked Jose Bautista and Encarnacion, so of course Lind swings at the first pitch, fouling off a sinker outside. He then lays off a low sinker (1-1) before biting on another on the outside corner, hammering it up the middle only to find Asdrubal Cabrera having shifted well over. Double play. No excuse for swinging at a bad first pitch after back-to-back walks but at least he stung the ball.

Apr 2, 6th inning: Bases empty (___). Apparently trying to NOT swing at the first pitch this time, he lets a sinker go for strike one, right down dream street. Masterson puts a slider in the exact same spot and Lind grounds out. Nothing to see here.

Apr 2, 9th inning: Bases empty (___). Fat Chris Perez is on for the save and gives Lind a steady diet of fastballs. Lind takes strike one literally as close to the center of the plate as a ball can get. Ball one misses and then Lind inexplicably fouls off a meatball down the heart of the plate. Ball two and three low to get the count full. Lind fouls one off high and away before flying out on ANOTHER fastball right down the middle. How you lay off one perfect pitch, foul off another and then pop one up is beyond me. Three great chances here.

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Apr 3, 2nd inning: ___. Lind gets a gift when strike one is called a ball, and then Jimenez misses way outside for ball two. So of course, Lind swings at the third pitch, a brutal high and outside fastball for a ground out. Terrible idea swinging 2-0 on a pitch that was hardly even borderline.

Apr 3, 4th inning: ___. Lind takes strike one and then lays off three straight pitches that aren’t anywhere close to the strike zone. So, up 3-1, he swings at a fastball six inches above the strike zone and whiffs. The pay-off pitch is right in the heart of the plate but he fouls it off, and then Jimenez misses by a mile for ball four. Nice to see a walk but he was gifted a few pitches here.

Apr 3, 7th inning: 1__. Lind takes a cutter for strike one from Bryan Shaw before flying out on another cutter. Not much to say here, just missed his pitch.

Apr 3, 9th inning: 1__. Hey, Edwin just walked, better swing at the first pitch! Lind pops up fastball. In his defense, Chris Perez sucks and I’d go up swinging too. That one hurt.

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Apr 4, 1st inning: ___. Lind takes two balls that miss by at least half a foot from Brett Myers. The 2-0 pitch is a bit inside but caught the plate, though Lind probably should have laid off (he fouls it off). The 2-1 is a changeup outside that Lind grounds to short. Not his best work.

Apr 4, 4th inning: ___. Lind takes a called strike one and then grounds a curveball to first. Not his best game.

Apr 4, 5th inning: ___. Ball one misses way outside. At this point, Myers has been missing a lot, throwing just north of 50 percent strikes. But Lind likes the second pitch, fouling off a curveball that drops out of the zone. Strike two is a generous call on the outside corner and Myers misses by a mile to make it 2-2. Here comes that devastating 91 MPH fastball, RIGHT DOWN THE PIPE, and Lind blasts it to the wall in center for a very loud out. That’s a home run to any other part of the park.

Apr 4, 6th inning: 123. Bases loaded and Cody Allen has walked the last two batters. Lind correctly lays off the first pitch even though it’s right down the middle. The second is in the same spot, but the slider fools Lind and he fouls it off. Stays alive by chipping an outside fastball foul, and then gets ball one on a brutal pitch. The 1-2 is a low slider that Lind golfs for a fly out. He is fouling off a lot of pitches right down the chute.

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Apr 5, 6th inning: _2_. Lind pinch hits for Mark DeRosa against Koji Uehara. Uehara deals a splitter on the outside corner that Lind pops into shallow center. Maybe could have taken a pitch to settle in.

Apr 5, 8th inning: 12_. Following a Rasmus walk, Lind intelligently takes the first pitch from Andrew Bailey but Bailey is gifted a strike that misses outside. He misses outside again to go 1-1 and then Lind fouls off a fastball on the outside corner. The 1-2 is, as you may have guessed ahead of time, high heat, a fastball that’s about six inches out of the zone. Lind flies it into center. Lay off that pitch, man!

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Apr 6, 2nd inning: ___. Lackey gives Lind four straight fastballs from 91-94, all of them nibbling around the outside except one. The first one is about six inches outside and is called for a strike, while the third is also outside and called for a strike. Lind is 1-2 without swinging and without a ball hitting the strike zone. The fourth pitch is low and away but, after the last couple calls, Lind hardly has a choice but to swing, grounding it back to the pitcher. Brutal swing on the 1-2, but a bit of an unfair PA given how bad those two strikes were.

Apr 6, 4th inning: ___. A HIT, thank you Lackey! Lind takes strike one and then lines a second fastball into center for a single. This was a nice swing, making something out of a low fastball with nothing on it.

Apr 6, 6th inning: ___. A WALK, best game ever! Aceves falls behind early, gets a 3-0 strike and then misses by a mile for ball four. Lind had no choice but to walk here. Nothing close.

Apr 6, 8th inning: ___. So, after Aceves walked him on five pitches without sniffing the zone, Lind jumps on a first-pitch fastball and narrowly misses a home run to left. You can quibble with swinging at the first pitch, but it was a bad fastball over the plate and Lind juuust missed it.

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Analysis

So it certainly doesn’t seem as bad as the slash line, with Lind having a few loud outs and a few unlucky calls dictating counts. He’s also showing two terrible trends in the early going, though.

High Heat

Lind loves the high heat, which is really unfortunate since he can’t hit it at all. Over the last two years, Lind is hitting .200 up and in, .000 up and middle and .100 up and away, without having an extra base hit on any of those swings. Overall, he’s 7-for-27 on high pitches in the last two years, with 19 of those coming on "hard" pitches. Beyond that, he’s also swung at an astounding 67 percent of high hard pitches the past two years, whiffing on a full quarter of those swings. Altogether, he swings too much at these pitches (two thirds of the time! On balls!), whiffs a lot and doesn’t hit them well when he does make contact.

So why doesn’t he lay off of them? Well that’s easy--he absolutely crushes everything that’s high and in the zone, he just has terrible recognition of what’s high and a strike or high and a ball. Lind has done almost all of his damage the past two years off of high pitches, especially hard ones, making it really difficult to lay off ones that are just a little too high. He has to learn, though, because already he’s wasted a handful of pitches of that nature this year.

Missing Easy

Lind also, so far, is missing on really juicy pitches, fouling off a ton of heat down the chute. This is uncharacteristic, as Lind has generally slugged well against pitches that find the middle of the plate. He also swings at a fair number of them (perhaps even too few at about 65 percent, the same rate he swings at bad pitches high). The issue is that, for whatever reason, Lind also wastes a ton of these fouling them off. Last year he fouled off just shy of half the middle-of-the-plate pitches he swung at. This wasn’t as large a problem in 2011, though, when that rate was closer to 35 percent.

I’m really not sure what the root cause is here, except for perhaps a lack of confidence when he sees a pitch he wants to jump on. It could be a timing issue as well, though we’ve seen him make some loud outs, too, so the timing might be fine.

Conclusions?

It’s obviously far too early to start making conclusions about Lind’s 2013 season. 18 plate appearances is essentially nothing. On the bright side, he’s had some really strong plate appearances and hidden in his 1-for-16 stretch are some pretty loud outs (at least three by my count). The concern, though, is that he’s shown two troublesome trends from last season (or seasons).

Lind is going to have a much longer leash than six games, and his numbers will begin to balance out with his actual performance. With that said, he could really help himself by laying off the high hard stuff. I’d suggest someone get to the root of why he can’t make clean contact with pitches right down the plate, too.

Have you all seen anything in Lind’s early plate appearances tipping your feelings one way or the other? Something I missed, a change in mechanics or something like that? An explanation for his trouble with anything that’s not high and in the zone? Let’s hear it.

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