Adam Lind is a New Man

This is Adam Lind's face. - Jonathan Ferrey

2013 has been a good year for Adam Lind so far and there are some signs that he might be serious about being a useful player this season.

If you are familiar with this blog chances are you know something about the quasi-tragic tale that is Adam Lind's career. For those who are new to the Jays, or those who have wisely decided to forget large portions of the Lind story, here's the brief recap. By and large, Adam Lind has not been a good player.After a great minor league career Lind struggled to establish himself as a big league regular until he exploded onto the scene in 2009, his fourth year in the majors. That year Lind hit 35 home runs with a slash line of 305/370/562, a pretty beautiful line anyway you slice it. It seemed that Lind was headed for big things, until the rest of his career happened. Here are his home run numbers, slash lines and WAR totals for the three years that followed:

2010: 23 home runs, 237/287/425, -1.0 WAR

2011: 26 home runs, 251/295/439, 0.2 WAR

2012: 11 home runs 255/314/414 0.0 WAR

This is the portrait of a bad player, it is also a prime example of how hitting 20 home runs does not necessarily make you valuable (looking at you J.P Arencibia). Lind offers no surplus value in the field or on the basepaths so there is nothing to mitigate these disastrous numbers.

There is, however, an interesting trend here. In 2012 Adam Lind was equally ineffective as he was in the previous two years, but in a very different way. He lost a great deal of his power (he hit far fewer home runs than the previous years, albeit in fewer PA) and became more patient at the plate. His walk rate jumped from a below average 5.9% to a respectable 8.2% and his isolated slugging dropped from .188 to .159. This change in approach did not seem especially significant at the time because a bad player continued to be equally bad, but perhaps we should have been paying more attention. The evolution of Lind's approach at the plate is apparent when we take a look at the plate discipline stats.

(Note: On this chart every "O" means 'outside the strike zone' and every "Z" means 'in the strike zone').

Year

O Swing%

Z Swing%

Swing%

O

Contact%

Z

Contact%

Contact%

Swinging Strike %

2011

37.1

70.0

50.8

68.0

86.6

78.7

10.7

2012

31.3

62.4

44.5

72.8

92.1

84.3

6.9

2013

20.4

59.0

36.8

69.8

89.1

83.0

6.0

When you look at these numbers you see a hitter who is becoming more selective. Over time Lind is swinging at far fewer balls outside the zone, and fewer balls overall. However, when Lind has swung the bat he has been making contact more often.This is likely a conscious decision on Lind's part to some degree and he has sacrificed some of his power to do it. The seeds of this change in plate discipline can be seen in his 2012 line, but only now is this change bearing fruit. Lind is sitting on a 274/400/425 line at the moment with an outstanding 17.8% walk rate and a measly 13.3% strikeout rate. He has already been worth 0.3 WAR or, to put it another way, 1.1 WAR more than his 2010-2012 seasons.

Of course, this analysis is not without its caveats. The 2013 season represents a 90 plate appearance sample size for Lind and almost all of those are against right handed pitching. That being said, it is already well established that Lind needs to be sheltered from left handed pitchers anyway, so it's not like his usage is likely to change and his numbers will plummet as a result. Additionally, plate discipline numbers are some of the quickest to stabilize (according to Fangraphs Swing % can stabilize as quickly as 50 PA into a season) so while it's not totally fair to say Adam Lind is showing patience at his true talent level, it's not as far-fetched as it might seem. The numbers will come down because a 17.8% walk rate is not sustainable for any player not named Joey Votto, but it seems the trend is valid. It will be interesting to see exactly where this new patient Adam Lind settles as a hitter, but early indications are that he might be an important lineup cog for this Blue Jays team against right handed pitching.

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