Lind’s lack of bombs

I know the fashionable thing to do right now is to talk about how great the Jays’ hitters have been with their amazing clutchness and to gush about the amazing starting pitching.

Those things are true but, as much as I enjoy watching this team win games it probably shouldn’t, I can’t help but wonder how much better it’d be doing if last year’s silver slugging DH was going full speed. Adam Lind was supposed to be the engine that kept the Jays offence running this season. So far though, he’s posted a disappointing line of .230/.315/.397/.712 with 5 homers and 18 RBI. Hardly numbers worthy of a silver slugger.

Thinking about this last night, I remembered the heart and hustle video thing that played at the Dome before the home opener. Part of that video featured Lind making a bold claim about his hitting ability. I couldn’t remember exactly what he said, just that it seemed like the kind of thing that someone would say just before having an awful season. Curious what it was that Sleepy said, I asked frequent commenter Cole if he could remember. Here’s what he said:

This isn’t verbatim, but it was something to the effect of ..

“This year, the American League East is going to be trying to find the holes in my swing … (awkward dramatic pause) … They won’t find any.”

Way to set yourself up for failure there, Lindy.

Looking at Lind’s stats is disappointing, but a quick glance at how he’s performed against each team Toronto’s faced so far this year tells a much different — and surprising to me, at least — story.  Lind’s really only struggled against three teams this year. Against those three teams though (Chicago, Kansas City and Oakland) he has struggled mightily.

So what’s going on with Lind?

For one thing, he hasn’t been able to do much of anything against lefties so far this year, posting a .135/.200/.162/.362 line with only one extra base hit in 37 at bats.

He seems to thrive when he’s batting with two outs, which doesn’t help me with anything but seems too odd to not mention here.

There are three stats I’ve found which may help explain what’s up with Lind’s lack of success so far this season:

  1. BABIP. So far, Lind’s down nearly 40 points from the .323 he posted last year. So luck might be a factor.
  2. Sleepy’s percentage of hits that are ending up as fly balls has increased from 36.8% to 40.4% while his HR/FB rate (basically what percentage of his fly balls end up in the outfield bleachers) has fallen from 19.8% to 13.9%. I know swings of 4 and 6 per cent respectively don’t seem huge, but when you’re hitting more fly balls and fewer are leaving the playing field, that tends to add up.
  3. The more Lind sees a pitcher, the better he fares against said pitcher. I know this is likely true of every hitter in the MLB and it only makes sense, but Lind improves by an almost ridiculous amount.

sOPS+ measures a hitter’s OPS in a particular split compared to the league average in that same split. The average score would be 100, anything above 100 is above average, below 100 is below average. Here are Lind’s sOPS+ numbers against starting pitchers as the game progresses:

  • 1st time, 19 — well below average;
  • 2nd time, 94 — almost average but not quite;
  • 3rd time, 223 — making the rest of the league look a little foolish;
  • 4th or more times, 253 — he might as well be using Thor’s hammer instead of a bat.

What does this say about Lind? Could be that it’s taking Lind a bit longer to figure out pitchers than it maybe should for a guy of his abilities. Could be that he’s not watching enough tape of upcoming starters. Could be that he’s extremely efficient at making pitchers pay for their mistakes when they start to get tired.

Or it could be that he’s just been unlucky.

Or it could be that I really have no idea.

What I do know though is that the Jays as a team are very unlikely to keep up their clutch hitting and their amazingly good pitching for much longer. Lind returning to the form he displayed last season would go a long way toward helping the team continue to win once the hot bats cool down.

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