The return of Adam Lind
A lot has gone wrong for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. Melky Cabrera regressed to the fourth outfielder type of player he was before 2011, Jose Reyes missed 66 games and Brett Lawrie‘s development into the next Ryan Braun has stalled. Emilio Bonifacio and Munenori Kawasaki have 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. The Jays boast two of the league’s best power hitters in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Colby Rasmus seems to be finally figuring it out at the age of 26.
And then there’s the resurrection of Adam Lind, the former Blue Jay star who was lost but now is found.
Adam 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 was just coming into his prime at 25.
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, Adam Lind got off to a great start again and seemed to be back. He was hitting .317/.348/.524 before May 7, when left the game with lower back stiffness. He missed four weeks. After returning on June 4, he reverted to 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 Adam 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 Adam Lind. He crushed the ball in Vegas, returned to the big club on June 24, 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 super team started slow out of the gates. Lind was no exception. Through May 2, 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 mashing like it was 2009 again. Two months of heavy hitting have brought his batting line up to .307/.362/.511 on the season. He’s re-asserted himself as John Gibbons‘ regular cleanup hitter and is once again a force to be reckoned with at the plate.
Adam 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 under 42 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 to 27.4 percent, right in line with where it was in ’09 (24.7 percent). Not surprisingly, his walk rate is the highest it’s been since — you guessed it — 2009.
So, instead of trying to do too much and getting himself out, Adam Lind is letting pitchers come to him. Luck’s been on his side, as his .354 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.